Traveling Back Home Alone

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.

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About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as ancestry.com, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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2 Responses to Traveling Back Home Alone

  1. Sheryl says:

    Wow, what an amazing story you have to tell! I’ve looked at a few posts–and want to come back and explore more when I have more time. So little is known about people who left the US during the Great Depression. Your are creating a really valuable resource.

    • kjw616 says:

      Thank you. Until I began researching my father’s family, I had no idea how many people left during that time. I am glad you like it. I have written a book about the whole saga and didn’t know if there was any interest in the story outside my family. Currently the book is residing on my computer until I figure out what to do with it.

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