How Did He Do It?

This day in 1941, my father arrived in Honolulu—a weary twenty-two year old young man traveling alone to New Jersey from the Soviet Union. I think that writing this story as a mother of three adult children gives me more perspective regarding how my grandparents must have felt when they sent Dad on his way.

I just cannot imagine not being able to communicate with my child, nor how frightening it must have been for him to be traveling such a great distance with no family or friends to share the journey—through Russia, Japan, Hawaii, and then home to New Jersey from San Francisco by train.

The pain, uncertainty and fear must have been overwhelming.

An excerpt from my book says:

The Kamakura Maru docked in Honolulu on June 22 and remained there for three days while the ship restocked its supplies. The passengers were buzzing about the news reports that Russia was surprised by their German allies, who broke the nonaggression pact signed between Hitler and Stalin two years earlier by attacking Russia in what has been considered the most brutal campaign in wartime history. Joseph Stalin was blindsided. He did not heed the warnings of his advisors that Adolph Hitler would break the agreement and invade the Soviet Union.

The assault occurred in the early morning hours of that day, so Marty promised one of the Russian diplomats whom he became friendly with during the voyage to Honolulu that he would leave the ship to buy a newspaper. He knew the embassy official wanted to know this news for his country; Marty needed to know for his mother, father, sisters, and brother.

…Marty felt so helpless. Here he was, now safely on U.S. soil, yet he did not know if his family was in danger, or whether they were safe from the perils of the invading German troops. It was impossible to communicate with them. He was more anxious than ever to return to New Jersey so he could help them. His life was moving in slow motion and there was nothing he could do to hasten his journey. The worry was unbearable. He picked up several newspapers for the Soviet diplomat aboard the ship, but he never found him once he returned to the ship.

He may have seen a newspaper such as this:

Germany Invades USSR

 It would still be several weeks before my father would feel safe. His voyage on the Kamakura Maru was not done. It would be six days before he would reach San Francisco and then at least four more days on a train across America. It was only the beginning of his troubles.


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, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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