I was tired, I was poor, and I just felt terrible. There was no chance of me living an adequate life in Poland. This is why my family and I had to move…move to America. It was our only hope. When we boarded the ship to America, we were honestly expecting a grand, luxurious boat with multiple levels…that was a foolish expectation. The ship was terribly maintained - if it was maintained at all – and all passengers were squished into a single, tiny room. Ugh, it was horrible! I was sick by the time we had arrived! However, once we departed from the ship, I felt sick no more, because at this sanctuary they call “Ellis Island”, the acrid smells of feces and other excretions no longer clung to the air, which was clean and warm and inviting. A monstrous swarm of other Polish immigrants mad dashed into the building in which all of us immigrants must be…”inspected”, whatever that meant. At last, our turn to be…”inspected” for illnesses and the like came to be. A man came up to me and my family and asked for our names. I told them my name, Douglankus Rothenshcniemenowskylask. The man gave me a really strange look and abruptly said “Douglas Roth. Next!” It took me a few moments to realize he had changed my name, to make it more “Americanized”. Douglas Roth… I liked the sound of it, the way the “D” clicked and the “R” rolled. Now, I don’t need two pieces of paper to write my name! Anyway, my father and I were escorted into one room while my mother and my elder sisters went into another. There, we were asked to take our clothes off, to be further…inspected for illnesses of all sorts. Luckily, both of us were completely healthy. We left the room and met up with my mother and sisters, who were also proven to be healthy. Finally, countless days spent in a smelly old boat and countless hours spent at Ellis Island have all paid off. Now we are a family united again, who set off in hopes of living as normal Americans do. And, who knows? Perhaps I shall make a friend who actually knows what it means to be…inspected.
Ellis Island, 1896
January 31, 2008