Dad boarded a Japanese passenger ship on this day in 1941— June 14—on the second leg of his journey back to New Jersey after having spent the past ten years living in the USSR with his parents and five siblings. He and his three sisters had applied for their passports the previous year, but for some reason, my father was the first to receive all his travel documents to return to the United States.
I am sure that it was with a heavy heart that he was leaving his family behind. Communications was not what it was today, so he did not know when he would speak with any of them again.
The ship headed to Honolulu first, and Dad was carrying an enormous secret told to him by a Japanese police officer that he was anxious to relay to someone in the U.S. government.
He boarded the ship with three hundred seventy-six other passengers, twenty-three who were listed as U.S. citizens. The remainder were from all over the world: Japan, Wales, Hungary, Spain, Sweden, England, Scotland, Germany, Poland, China, Austria, Russia, Canada, Egypt, Australia, Denmark, France, and Czechoslovakia.
Among all these strangers from around the globe, I was happy to see Dad had made a friend. She was a twenty-five year old young woman. She was listed on the ship’s manifest as an American citizen heading to Canton, Ohio, but she was born in Poland and was traveling on passport obtained in Moscow three days before my father.
Did they ride the same train across the Soviet Union, or did they meet for the first time on the ship? Perhaps they met in Moscow. In any case, I found a picture of Dad and her aboard the ship in his old photograph album. He found a friend. It was comforting. I wonder if they ever contacted each other after the voyage. I found her address, so maybe they did.
As I said in my book, if only I had sat down and spoken to him about all of this. Maybe I would have the answers to my questions.