The final leg of the journey from New Jersey to Leningrad began in Hull, England, where Dad’s family boarded the Arcturus, a small Finnish passenger steamship at 6:00 on the evening of December 23. The Arcturus was nothing like the luxurious Berengaria. The Berengaria was a magnificent queen, while the Arcturus was a weary peasant. Travel on the North Sea route was rough, windy, and lonesome. The sea was choppy. Christmas Eve was equally unpleasant. They should have been home in Rockaway, preparing for a happy, albeit sparse Christmas Day.
According to what one of my aunts wrote in the diary, “The afternoon of Christmas Day, the ship arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark. We walked around Copenhagen and bought some candy from one store that had remained open.”
The Arcturus left Denmark at noon the next day for its final destination of Helsinki, Finland. The Baltic Sea was cold and rough. By the second day out, the entire ship was seasick as the Arcturus rolled from side to side and heaved up and down like a roller coaster. Dishes slid off the tables and no one was able to eat. Finally, on the morning of the twenty-eighth, the ship completed its journey.
Within an hour, they were at yet another hotel- The Hansa Hotel. As they all sat eating breakfast, they watched as the snowy landscape outside the windows of the restaurant was transformed into a scene from a Christmas card. Despite the snow and wind, my grandfather insisted that they take a walk around the city. He allowed them to buy a few trinkets. I am sure he realized they would probably never return again, so he wanted his children to experience as much as possible.
They left for the train at 10:30 that evening, and by 11:23, the train was moving toward its final destination- Leningrad. The train pulled into the station before 6:00 that night.
What would their lives be like? Was the decision to leave New Jersey correct? Had my grandfather found the answer of how to live a better life by taking his family away to a country which had not felt the effects of the Great Depression? Only time would tell.
Rereading the final diary pages of the, I found another entry hidden between the lines: “April 20, 1942- Mrs. Hopler’s gift and ruby ring to Anna. The ruby stone fell out.” —Who was Mrs. Hopler, and what was the signifcance of the ring?”