The Boy in the Photo

There were so many decisions involved in self-publishing my book, but the easiest was the choice of a photograph for the cover. I knew exactly which picture I would use.

Years ago, I temporarily “stole” my father’s photograph album. It was falling apart and was very disordered. I told my mother I wanted to buy a new album, organize the photos— including captions when possible—and then give it back to Dad.

It is truly an amazing array of pictures. The album begins with a school picture of my father at the age of eight, followed by pictures of the trip to Russia in 1931, scenes around Leningrad, Japan in 1941, Dad at various locations stateside and abroad during World War II, and a final picture of him somewhere in Florida with a parrot sitting on his arm.

Those photos, like the diary I also have, traveled around the world with him. How did he keep them in such good conditions during his travels?

The picture on the cover is a scene of my father on the Finish steamship—the SS Arcturus—taken in December 1931. Dad is the boy wearing a fur-collared jacket standing inside a life preserver. My grandmother and aunt are behind him, but the other people—mostly women—are all strangers. To me, it was so representative of how I imagine any ship photograph of immigrants may have looked—all beginning an uncertain chapter in their lives.

They were en route to a new life—leaving their comfortable house and dear friends behind. What must he have felt at the moment that picture was snapped? Was he excited, was he afraid, or maybe he was just cold.

Aboard Arcturus

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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