August 1941, Dad is now safe in Rockaway, New Jersey, staying at the home of his godmother and her family. He was unaware that his family had left Novgorod with barely any time to spare. The day before the city fell to the Germans, the diary entry said that the family left Novgorod on foot.
Several letters from the National Archives provided further details. On the morning of August 14, they left Novgorod headed away from the hostilities with their evacuation papers packed carefully away. The city fell to the Germans the next day.
Uncle Pete, his wife, Nona (Dad did not know his brother had a wife), Aunt Nancy’s husband, Waldemar and his sister, Vera, left Novgorod via the Volkhov River. They were responsible for taking most of the bulky items which could not be easily transported by train or on foot. This may have included household items such as linens, dishes and pots and pans. Dad’s parents and sisters intended to walk until they could reach a train station. They piled a wagon to nearly overflowing with blankets, pillows, and nonperishable food, and carried the remainder of their belongings either in suitcases or strapped to their backs, believing that the family would be reunited within a few days.
The first night, my grandparents, twin aunts, and Aunt Anna slept in a barn in a nearby village, eating raw potatoes and cucumbers stolen from a nearby garden.
With the constant sounds of aircraft thundering overhead and bombs exploding nearby, they were fearful that their lives would come to an end if they ventured outside. My grandparents and three aunts remained hidden there for over two weeks until they felt it was safe to move again.
Meanwhile, back in Boonton, New Jersey- only 10 miles from where Dad was living- my other grandfather (Papa) had somehow survived the Great Depression. He managed to get small jobs here and there laying linoleum. He had beautiful handwriting, so he made signs for various people and companies. The jobs were few and far between, so those were very lean, hard times.
That grandpa finally secured employment working for the Works Project Administration (WPA), which was a federal project for the unemployed. He helped build a wall in his town on the upper part of Main Street. Papa was paid fourteen dollars per week. My Boonton grandma somehow managed to feed their six children on the meager allowance from that job. By the time my father had arrived in Rockaway, Papa had secured a job at Curtiss Wright Corporation assembling parts in their aircraft manufacturing facility.
Two grandpas; two different paths. By the fall of 1941, my twenty-two year old father was worried and wondering about his family on the other side of the world, while my then twelve year old mother was living a much more carefree life. It would be years before their worlds would intersect.