Knock Knock. It’s Just the FBI– Updated

Based upon all the “excitement” at our airports this past weekend, I decided to look back at an older post, a reminder to some, but fresh for my newer readers. This was written almost eight months ago, and since then, quite a lot has changed.

At the time the event in that post occurred—sometime during 1956—my grandmother was living in the Soviet Union, but she was considered to be a stateless person. While reading the post, try substituting USSR/Russia with Syria, and communists with terrorists. It sounds like it could have been written today.

I did not know I was a psychic.

Do Svidanya Dad post: June 6, 2016

My father refused to speak about life in the USSR so the FBI paid him a visit. Could something similar happen under a Trump administration?

At the time—sometime in the mid 1950’s—Dad had served four years in the Army during World War II and an additional ten months stationed at Fort Hood during the Korean War. He had not seen his mother for almost sixteen years. He was a young man who had honorably served his country twice.

My immigrant grandmother had the unfortunate luck to be born in Russia, so when she and her family tried to return to the United States after living in the USSR for ten years, it was more difficult for her than her children since she had never become an American citizen. My grandparents had begun the naturalization process while living in New Jersey from 1913-1931 but had only obtained their first papers.

They learned that leaving the Soviet Union was not as easy as setting up residence there. A world war fought on Soviet soil did not help their repatriation. As I mentioned in a previous post, Dad was the first to be given his travel documents to leave.

So after years of writing letters (many of which I found in a box at the National Archives) to just about anyone who would listen to him, it must have been a slap in the face to be visited by the FBI simply because he would not speak at a meeting of the Boonton, NJ Lions Club about his years spent in Russia. This was during the time of the Red Scare led by Senator Joe McCarthy. (The Resurrection of the McCarthy Playbook)

My grandmother and three of her grandchildren were stuck over there, so my father did not want to do anything to jeopardize their return. He was trying to maintain a low profile because he was afraid for his mother and his brother’s children.

He must have been happy to watch Senator McCarthy being censured during a hearing in 1954, when attorney Joe Welch said to him, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue attacking a young lawyer he accused of having communist ties, Welch uttered the famous line, “Have you no sense of decency?”

Tensions surrounding fears of communists infiltrating our country began to diminish, but the FBI visit to my parents’ home sometime in 1956 proved it was not over.

Now as I listen to the news and hear the plans rolled out by Donald Trump, I wonder what could happen to a Muslim family who may want to bring a mother or grandmother to our country or return here from a visit abroad. Will the FBI visit them if they refuse to speak about life in Iraq or Iran or even attempt to communicate with them? Will their grandma be permitted to join her family in America if our president is Donald Trump? Will he suggest banning them from becoming attorneys or law enforcement officers or serving in the military because of their religion or ethnicity?

Hmm! It’s something to think about. “Have you no sense of decency Mr. Trump?”

Statue of Liberty

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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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