Once the decision to return to New Jersey was made, the letter writing began in full force. In late March, Dad sent a letter to the American Embassy in Moscow expressing his desire to leave, and he and his three sisters executed their passport applications the following week.
This had been the plan all along. When they left in 1931, they hoped to return within nine or ten years. By then, my grandfather expected that the American economy would have improved, and he would be able to return to New Jersey and find employment again. He never imagined they would not be permitted to leave.
In June, my three aunts-Anna, Nancy, and Helen-were instructed by the State Department to make preparations to go to Moscow. In August, Dad received a letter from the embassy in Moscow verifying his American citizenship and informing him that his passport would be issued upon presentation of his non-citizen residence permit (vid na zhitel’stvo, which is the equivalent of a Green Card here in the United States) and proof that his travel arrangements had been made. For some reason, only my father’s passport was issued, so my aunts could not go with him.
The transportation costs between Moscow and Japan were 1500 rubles plus one hundred seventy-five dollars in United States currency for the travel between Japan and San Francisco. Within two weeks, he was ready to travel to Moscow to pick up his passport, Japanese visa, and tickets to Japan. He assured his sisters that he would send them money once he was back in New Jersey. After most likely a tearful goodbye to his family, he left, not knowing when or if he would see any of them again. Dad was just twenty-two years old when he embarked on this long journey home alone without any way to communicate with his family for a very long time.
It was a very precarious time in the world. The war in Europe had begun in September 1939 with the German invasion of Poland, and by the time Dad was set to leave his family, Japan had signed the Tripartite Pact, aligning them with Germany and Italy. It was a very dangerous time to be traveling across the Soviet Union, Japan and the Pacific.
Thinking of the peril Dad placed himself, I feel that my worries about the travels of my own children are so trite in comparison to those of my father.