Four Aberdeen residents, all immigrants to this country, were interviewed for the Aberdeen University Civic Symphony performance of American Visions, Ellis Island Dreamers in February 2018.
Each person shared the story of their journey to the United States in the post-Ellis Island era of immigration. They came from different parts of the world, and took separate and unique paths to get here, yet they all now call Aberdeen 'home'. Below is one of these stories:
"I never thought of moving to America, but America came to me. My husband’s parents had both immigrated to the U.S. in the 20’s, which is where they met and married, and he was born here in America. He had learned Czech, though, as a child and so could speak my language.
In 1985 he spent 8 months in Czechoslovakia, as it was then called, as a Fulbright Scholar, and that is how we met. I was studying for my terminal degree and we dated the whole time he was in Prague. He wanted me to come visit him in the United States for three weeks at Christmas. I had traveled all over Eastern Europe, but never was granted a visa to the West – until this time. Here we drove around the upper West and the Midwest so I could meet his family and see some of the country. In January, 1986, when we were travelling through Nevada, we were married. It was the simplest way to ensure our future life together, without risking obstructions from either government. I returned back to Prague – to everybody’s surprise…It was not uncommon to stay abroad during the communistic era, but I wanted to have everything legal. Of course – I didn’t know that in less than a couple of years, the Berlin Wall would come down and the political situation in Europe would take a sharp turn toward democracy.
My husband came over in the summer and I got pregnant with our oldest. We have two children altogether. By the time all the paperwork in both countries got done, I had finished my doctoral studies (and paid for it since I was moving out of the country…otherwise all education had always been free), sold all my possessions and apartment, said many good-byes to all my family, colleagues and friends. I was also five months pregnant and it was a year since our marriage. I knew some English before I came, I already spoke Czech, German and Russian. English was actually not a very difficult language for me to learn to speak, although spelling is tricky – but with my motivation and some college classes – it’s a wonderful language.
We moved to Washington State. We took turns throughout our lives following our careers to various places, first one and then the other. It was I who got the job here in Aberdeen at NSU. I have found no particular difficulties living in America. I have been here for 31 years now. I go back to the Czech Republic every summer, most of the time with some family,
sometimes alone. My parents came to visit us a few times, so did my sisters with their families and several friends.
I still work and I love my work, Richard is retired. We now have my grandparents’ house, in the southern Czech Republic, which is almost 300 years old, that we have been fixing up and restoring. We love it there. We of course have our home in Aberdeen and we love it here. We have family and friends in both countries. Two places to be happy, but always missing the other one…"