When my parents arrived in the U.S on August 15, 1949 they did not speak English so I am sure things must have been tough in the beginning. They were 28 and 29 at the time. My father would not return to Europe to visit his family until 1967. My mother's parents were killed during the war. Her two sisters also made it to the U.S. She never was able to see her brother again before he died. After close to 50 years in the U.S.(as of 1998) they still have very strong accents. The two photos below show them arriving in New York Harbor on August 15, 1949. Yes, dad had a camera with him and never put it down.
(Click on the thumbnails to see the full-size photos)
The thousands of cards and letters I've gotten from this page almost always seek more information about my mother and father. Ok. Dad was a graduate of the Hungarian military academy. He was at some sort of Hungarian training installation in Germany at the end of the war. He had just graduated. When his unit saw the Americans arriving they wisely surrendered and got fed. He was actually in an American POW camp at war's end and stayed in the camp until October 15, 1945 (What's really funny is that during my stay at the University of Texas my roommates would refer to my father as "the fieldmarshal.")
After being released from the POW camp he went to Wiesbaden, Germany to live in a United Nations refugee camp. He then got a job in Wiesbaden working in the mess hall of a US army base. His job basically had him calculating the proper amount of food needed to feed the number of people stationed at the base. He was literally counting the beans. (I later developed a similar aptitude.) All in all, dad always said life in Germany after the war was good. He had a great job working for the Americans.
My mother is Ukrainian. She and her two sisters ended up in Wiesbaden, Germany running westward away from the Russians. They, like my father, went to Wiesbaden to live in the same United Nations refugee camp. As many Texans can relate to, going home back east was not a popular option. She then got a job in Wiesbaden as a waitress in the officers club in the mess hall of a US army base. And the rest is history. Neither of them wanted to (or even could) go home so why not get married and be miserable together. One of my mother's sisters married a GI. (Hence her trip over.) It was a double wedding in Wiesbaden with my mother and father.
Mom and dad came to the US as displaced persons (DP's for those of you old enough to remember), so the boat ride was actually free. (Yes Republicans, my mom and dad started life in the US on the dole.) The boat was the US Heinzelman, a US military transport ship. It would be neat to someday find somebody else who was on that boat. One of the more interesting stories that I have just recently learned about was that my father had volunteered to be a hall monitor on the trip. He had to show up the day before to learn his responsibilities for the trip. As a result he slept in the officers' quarters on a real bed. My mother slept with the women on hammocks.
Mom's two sisters were already in the US. (Remember the GI?)
So they ended up in Mt. Clemens, Mich. because a woman with a big house (and probably a big heart) volunteered to put them up until they could get on their feet. They lived with her for a couple of months before moving into a small apartment. (Helen Geffert on Cass Avenue. She ran a beauty salon out of her house.)
They would visit the Statue of Liberty again over the years. Here is a photo of my father in 1959. The date on the slide says August 1959. I wonder if it was August 15, 1959, which would be exactly 10 years after he arrived. (Do you suppose that had any significance in the planning of the trip to New York?)
And here is my mother in 1977.
Mom and dad apparently did not know at the time that I would be putting these photos on a web site. Otherwise I am sure they would have been certain to get photos with each of them. Next August (August 15, 1999) will mark 50 years since their arrival in the US. I smell a photo opportunity. (Gee Beth, I hope you didn't already have vacation plans.) (Update: Go to douglasfejer.com and see the photos taken on the August 15, 1999.)
And that's the end of that chapter.
By the way, in case I forget later, God Bless America.
Ok, where else on this homepage do I put a recent photo. (Recent is a
relative term. Taken in 1998) Here is a photo of my
mother and father as well as of my sister and me last summer. (Boy, I just do get better lookin' everyday. Beth sure married well, didn't she?.) An interesting thing about my
sister Lesia. She is 7 years older than me. Yet, my children continue to think
that she is my younger sister, much to Aunt Lesia's delight. (For you photography buffs
out there, this photo was taken with Fugi slide film. The quality is amazing.)
In 1999 my sister and I took our families to New York to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their arrival in the United States. See photos. http://www.douglasfejer.com/1999/Liberty/
Paul H. Fejer, Sr. passed away 2005-05-01.
Maria Wasilchenko Fejer passed away 2009-03-03. Rest in peace.
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