Part 23 (Journey to the United States)
From Prague to New York City
Click on images to enlarge.
The emigration process was involved. Approval was needed from the U.S government, passage had to be paid for ahead of time and permission was needed from every country the family would travel through. The family left three days before the rest of their group so that Rena's father could see Paris. He also had a list of items to buy for his brother, mostly perfumes.
Three days after the family left, the Soviet Secret Police came looking for Rena's father. They learned about the secret police from their former neighbors in Prague who wrote to them about it.
The emigration process and journey are reconstructed from the travel visas below. The captions give some relevant details and there is a map of the journey.
Republic of Czechoslovakia
On the left side is the stamp from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service with the arrival date in New York City, August 25, 1947. The right side is stamped "nonextensible" and for citizenship it is stamped "not yet determined".
On the left side Rena's "Profession" is listed as student. Her birthplace is listed as Przemyśl Poland
The passport is valid for one single journey from Czechoslovakia through France to the USA and is non-renewable. The family also traveled through occupied Germany and England. The right side has a stamp from the U.S. Military Permit Office in Prague dated August 6, 1947.
There is a stamp from the U.S. Embassy in Prague with the Immigration Visa number, a stamp from the British Embassy in Prague that gave permission for a single journey through the United Kingdom. and stamps for border crossings. They crossed into occupied Germany at Chebu on August 15, arrived in Folkestone, England on August 18, and departed England from Southhampton on August 19. There is also a stamp from a bank in Prague showing that they had money for traveling.
The page on the left has a stamp from the French embassy in Prague with permission for the journey. It was also stamped when they crossed into France at Strasbourg on August 16 and a stamp for when they left Paris on August 18.
This doesn't represent the actual route Rena and her parent's took but is a modern day route a car would take crossing the borders at the same places with a stop in Paris.
RMS Queen Mary
This passenger list from the Queen Mary gives the birthplace for Rena's parents as the U.S.S.R. since they were coming under the immigration quota for Soviet citizens. They would have used their false documents to exit the Soviet occupation zone. Rena's birthplace is listed as Poland. It also lists the immigration Visa numbers which were necessary to come to the United States.
What was it like being on a big ocean liner?
I loved every minute of it. We were on the Queen Mary. It only took us five days to cross. The food was… I used to eat my father’s dinners because he didn’t feel so good to his stomach. It was a calm voyage. We were in what is known as tourist class, and I thought it was the height of luxury. There were movies, music, entertainment, and there was a very fancy dinner service. And of course we were very hungry . We had a lot of deprivation so it was all extremely luxurious.
After we arrived to New York we had to go to be checked through by immigration authorities – they set up the checking point in the first class and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that a ship could hold such a huge hall with columns and a stage for entertainment. It was fantastic to see that. It was very, very nice. And your sister visited the Queen Mary because it is now in Los Angeles.
The Queen Mary was used to transport troops during WWII and bring them home afterwards. For this purpose she was outfitted to carry 16,000 troops at once (they had to take turns to sleep). Her speed enabled her to outrun U-boats and battleships.
Ariadna and her parents departed Southhampton, England on August 20, 1947, which was actually the ocean liner’s second trip to New York after returning to commercial use. Now the ship is docked at Long Beach, CA and serves as a hotel, event venue, tourist attraction and occasionally as a movie set.
During World War II. the Queen Mary was nicknamed "The Grey Ghost".