It Was Freedom I Was Interested in
Coca N.
 

            I belonged to the middle class in Romania, from a financial point of view. As all the people, you could save up money for a year and you could go to the seaside for a month and if you were luckier, you could go to Predeal too.

            I couldn?t complain that I had a bad position and that I left for America for a better financial position. It was freedom that I was interested in. That was what I told them but I told them about my political file too. Father had been a prisoner in Russia and that is the reason why I had troubles. My niece could choose when she was 14 from among the best schools in New York while when I sat the exam for enrolling with a high-school when I was 13, the education reform took place and I wanted to attend the Chemistry High-school - synthesis, plastic materials and rubber - which was in the building of the former French High-school in Batiştei street. I got excellent marks in all the subjects, I got only nine and ten, but I found myself on the list of those who hadn?t been admitted. I was quite a bold child for my age so I went to ask why I had been repelled and I was answered: Would you like a dynasty of scientific chemists? My father was a chemical engineer. And so they talked me down. These were the only reasons set forth. I didn?t mention in the form the financial reason and I mentioned clearly that I wanted another future for my children. That was what I declared with the Emigration Office and I stated the same thing in my form which was afterwards even searched in my house in my absence by certain comrades over there. I was living in a poor district, Richwood, where a lot of Romanians lived, small fish, little fish who were writing down informative notices. And I think that they had searched high and low this sheet of paper, to see what I had written when I placed my form with the Emigration Office. But I have read a lot of detective stories in my life and I stuck it on the bottom of the TV-set. I asked myself where I might hide it and I stuck it with sticking-tape on the bottom of the American TV-set.

            Consequently I started work the next week. I accepted anything and I went to an Apral Pressing, that is a company where they pressed dresses and suits and sewed on buttons and where these were labeled as they were imported and after that they were distributed. It was there that I learned that a perfect dress got to Fifth Avenue, that another dress got to Alexander and that if it had a stain it got lower. So I could choose better when I went shopping later on. There were six very difficult months and when I could sit down it seemed happiness to me. My feet were like logs. Generally I stood about ten hours and I earned three dollars an hour which increased later on because I was a hard working lady. It was very little. Today it?s minimum five dollars. Yet the people were very kind. The chief would talk to us but I could speak neither Hungarian nor English. The owner of the company was a Hungarian-Jew who had a group of Romanian ladies who had come from Oradea and could speak Hungarian with the owner. One of them, having been there for a long time tortured me like hell. She would be very pleased to keep me standing to check the clothes. The respective madam had been a shop assistant with a grocer?s shop in Sibiu and she had a better financial position here got by marriage. Her great joy was the fact that she could keep a higher educated person and belonging to another social class under her thumb. Unfortunately this is a characteristic feature I have met with many Romanians unlike other nationalities. The Romanian helps you but asks for ever lasting gratitude for the favor he has done for you and besides he would like to make a little bit of profit out of it. When stating this I refer only to a certain category of Romanians. I can not treat different people alike. Anyway I did it. I worked with them until Christmas Day.

            I lived in Bronx, which was then beautiful and good and I would change two trains to Queens. It took me about an hour. Then I had the guts of going to school too and I got home at eleven p.m. I was not afraid. I had my own routes so well traced that I seemed to be a little robot that got on the? train, got off and changed trains. It was apocalyptical in the beginning, it was terrifying. I remember that one day I took a wrong platform and I could not ask anybody to direct me as I couldn?t speak English. I was trying hard to learn at school but it was impossible because I was already tired. I understood but I couldn?t speak. It was a free of charge school for immigrants near Columbia University. So it was very far away, on the other side of Bronx. It was a very nice and good school in Riverside Church. There were groups of beginners and advanced people. But I couldn?t stand it too long.

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