lördag 1 september 2018

New York, New York

måndag 1 september 2018

New York New York

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From the beginning there were only Indians. Then came the viking Leif Eriksson from Iceland around 1003, before Christopher Columbus “discovered” America 1492. Later came the Dutch and the English explorers who started to build the New World. Today nearly half of Americas 1 300 000 000 people can trace their roots back to millions and millions of immigrants.

New York got its name of an Englishman who probably came from York in England. He worked for a Dutch company, so the island he explored – that today is Manhattan or New York City – got the name New Amsterdam after the capital of Holland. Manhattan and the rest of America is characterized by the immigrants. One quarter is for example called Chelsea after a Chelsea in London. Chinatown and Little Italy got their names after the people who once settled here.

The Golden Land
It was the Englishmen who first did business with slaves from Africa. From 1740 till 1810 special head hunters forced 60 000 slaves per year to come till they were about 11 millions and the system was forbidden 1865. In other words, the first immigrants did not come by free will. Later, at the end of the 1800s, Italians, Poles, Armenians and Russians arrived as well as Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Very soon there were also coming people from France, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia. Some had left their homelands because of a catastrophe like an earthquake or famine. In Ireland, for example, a terrible disease in the mid 1800s destroyed the main farm crop – potatoes – for several years in a row. The famine lasted many years and nearly 2 million people died of starvation. Almost as many people left for America. When there was a famine in Sweden in the 1860s, whole villages packed up and left for America. But many immigrants fled for other reasons. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, thousands of Russian Jews were killed in terrible pogroms, which were massacres often organized by the government and sometimes even by churches. Millions of Jews left Russia and eastern Europe because of these pogroms, as well as other kinds of religious persecution. To them America was a “Golden land” where they could get a decent job, go to free school and eat well as long as they were willing to work. 

Three million Russians

Civil unrest and economic instability were hallmarks of Russian life in 1881. Jewish citizens were victims of violence and restrictions on their ability to live and work in their homeland. More that 3 million Russians – about half of whom were Jewish, had arrived in the United States by 1914. Two decades earlier unstable economic conditions had prompted a similar wave of Polish immigration. By 1914 over 2 million Poles had settled in United States. During the 1920s the new communist regime in Russia banned Jewish religious studies and encouraged the resettlement of Soviet Jews. Approximately 20 000 Russians came to the US then, while another 30 000 Russian immigrants arrived following World War II. Soviet restrictions during the Cold War limited the number of people allowed to leave for the United States, but in the 1970s Soviet Jews were allowed to emigrate once again. Many of the latter Russians immigrants settled in New York and California. By Russians means even Ukrainians and people from the Belarus and the Baltic countries. At the time for the first World War the emigration was sharply curtailed by the Bolshevik seizure and consolidation of power. Since this time, Russian immigration has been extremely limited, but has risen dramatically since the demise of the Soviet Union in late 1991.

Ellis Island in New York

Many Russians had to leave their homes during the night to escape mobs that were beating and murdering people. They had to go to a big town with a port somewhere to be able to reach a boat heading for America. There were often several difficulties to face. Sometimes the government did not want boys and young men to leave, since they wanted them to serve in the army. Other problems was thieves  who stole the gods, while they were sleeping. Some had to pay bribes to the border guards to be able to cross the border to another country. The trip overland sometimes took weeks. Then they might have to wait two weeks or longer at the port before the ship was ready to depart. With a sailing ships the trip to America could take from 40 days to six months. By the late 1800s the steamships took over the business which made the trip faster – from six to thirty-two days. Like most other immigrants the Russians came to America in poverty. Less than six per cent brought more that 50 dollars with them. 
Almost all immigrants came to Ellis Island in New York, that today is the American Family Immigration History Center, where people interested in genealogy can find their relatives. Ellis Island is sited on a small island close the Statue of Liberty only 15 minutes way with the ferry from lower Manhattan.

Most of them got in

According to a United States law the ship companies had to pay the return fare for anyone who had to be sent back from America. So before leaving, ship doctors examined all passengers to see if they had any illnesses like typhus, yellow fever, smallpox or cholera that would prevent them from being allowed to enter the United States. The doctors vaccinated and disinfected them all. Their arrival in New York was an ending as well as a beginning – the midway point in a voyage of transformation that had begun thousands of miles away.
Ellis Island was like a miniature city for the immigrants. There were waiting rooms, dormitories for over a thousand people, restaurants, a hospital, baggage room, post office, banks to change foreign money, a railroad ticket office, medical and legal examination rooms, baths, laundries, office areas for charities and church groups and courtrooms. Ellis Island was the last hurdle the immigrants had to pass before they were to enter the country.
For most the experience was over in four or five hours, when they were curtly waved down a flight of stairs toward the exit and out into the New World. Following signs marked “New England” and “West” most of the immigrants quickly dispersed to distant towns and cities around the country. For one in a four of the final destination was Manhattan. That is also where most of their descendants live today.
Monica Antonsson

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