Celebrating the Second of July
By Bruce Walker
All good Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, and some good Frenchmen celebrate the Fourteenth of July (Bastille Day), but I know people who celebrated the Second of July, an independence day with a very special, personal meaning. Those born in America (or France) have a country, but what about a baby born in Bergen-Belsen who never really had a home at all, except that Displaced Persons Camp which had before that been a horrific Concentration Camp? What home did that baby have?
Poland? That was the nation where the baby's parents were born – and where nearly all the baby's parents had been murdered, but her family was not welcome there – either by the stooges of Stalin or the Poles, who also had suffered indescribable horrors for six years. Israel? That was an option, but not an easy option for a family with a baby whose enemies threatened it with war constantly. Britain? The British were still rationing food to British citizens, and would be for years – the baby and her family wanted the chance to live without hunger or privation, and they were willing to work for it.
So the father decided to adopt a new home, America. As a slave laborer for years under the Nazis, he understood work, but now he would be able to work for good, for a purpose, for a goal that could inspire his best. Work would be more than just a job (although he worked long and hard at that), but it would be work to take every wholesome advantage that his new home could offer: He went to night school, he taught the growing baby as a young girl to read English before she started school, and he worked at two "jobs" while his wife worked – all sweat and effort to make, not to be given, the American Dream.
The three, the small family, crossed the Atlantic on a British warship and the father worked as a cook on the warship so that his wife and daughter could have a separate cabin. The seamen on this ship, a few years earlier, would have been risking their lives to escort conveys passed U-Boats in a vital campaign of the Second World War, but now the work was happier and this small part of the work, escorting a baby and her parents to America, was happier still.
The two year old girl, who spoke only Yiddish, made friends with the hardened sailors, who had seen so many die at sea for a cause that, for many years, must have seemed hopeless. Her little face and constant banter was living proof that God had a purpose for all the sacrifice and that life, in spite of all the dreadful costs that Churchill warned about – "blood, toil, sweat, and tears" – continued and defeated malice and murder.
The ship arrived in America two days before Americans celebrate the birth of their nation. The Royal Naval warshippulled into New York Harbor and passed the Statute of Liberty on July 2, 1949: A safe, good voyage for the captain and sailors on the ship, but an exciting and slightly unnerving beginning for the tiny family from Bergen-Belsen.
When the three left the ship, they felt as if they had entered another world. "Meshuggenah!" is what the mother thought as she saw women walking around wearing tight pants , smoking cigarettes, and carrying huge portable radios on a very hot New York day. Where, in the world, were they now? The father was more concerned with practicable problems: How would they get to their sponsor? How did one get around in the world's largest city? How did the couple communicate? Both spoke Yiddish, Polish and German, but none of those languages helped in the bustle of New York.
America, however, presented no problems that work, wit and courage could not overcome. All three, legal immigrants, went through the proper steps to proudly become American citizens – overcoming obstacles equal to any problems that illegal immigrants here today. The father, after a lifetime of work, spent a second lifetime keeping a New York park safe and pristine for families and ended up having the park named after him by a grateful city while he was still alive. The mother learned English from watching television and, despite the cruelty of her early life, showed kindness to the rest of her life – the worst that life could offer did not weaken her faith in a Blessed Creator. The baby grew up, became a physician, and then married your author.
So while this home will always celebrate the Fourth of July, the Second of July – the day in which three souls who seemed abandoned by God found and loved a new home, much better than the old home – will always be a different sort of independence day, a day that proves America is a promise to all who embrace it with love and hope.
Bruce Walker has been a published author in print and in electronic media since 1990. He is a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right and a regular contributor to Conservative Truth, American Daily, Intellectual Conservative, Web Commentary, NewsByUs and Men's News Daily. His first book, Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie by Outskirts Press was published in January 2006.