REMEMBERING ELLIS ISLAND
ON COLUMBUS DAY
many Italians this island was the golden gate to
their new home
am one of the one hundred million people whose
ancestor entered America through the immigration
offices on Ellis Island
in New York.
fortunate ancestor was my grandfather and when I
was a child he used to tell me over and over again
the story of how he got to America and of how he
became a citizen of the United States. From
his little Sicilian village he had arrived in
the huge city on the other side of the Atlantic.
The way he told me his story made me look
everything magic and legendary. My grandfather had
to return back to Italy while, closing the family
circle, I live now in Texas maybe because I was
fascinated by his first American tales. I remember
that grandpa Gaetano used to get excited when he
described the day he got to New York.
On the unstable boat where almost everyone had
been seasick all the passengers had run to the
side rails and in the misty morning they had
finally caught sight of the Statue of Liberty,
beautiful and gigantic.
they had gone through the inspection on Ellis
Island. The U.S. Immigration
facilities built there since January of 1892
consisted of three floors and covered an area of
about five thousand and six hundred square meters.
The newcomers were taken there to go through the
physicals and their papers controls.
Twelve million people,
more than seventy percent of the immigrants who
arrived to America at the end of the
nineteenth century had to go through that
inspection on the island that has become the
symbol of immigration to our great Country. An
important museum can be found on Ellis Island
to remind us also of the dream that did not always
come true and that was associated with the United
States. These immigrants came from every corner of
the world and from Europe that was afflicted by
wars, poverty and hunger.
will never forget the plain and shameless words of
an Italian American lady, who now owns a very
successful restaurant, according to which her
parents had been able to have at dinner their
first plate of meat only when from their poor
Sicily they had finally immigrated to America.
Island in the period of the great migration
witnessed incredible stories of anguish and
overwhelming human dramas.
My grandfather used to tell me that almost
everyone was afraid of that inspection and of
missing the opportunity to enter the new Country
that offered a job and the chance to give a decent
life to their family. Unfortunately not everyone
had the requirements necessary for the admission.
Poverty and hunger had spread in Europe illnesses
like tuberculosis that killed a large number of
people mostly in the poor areas of the Old
Continent among which there was also southern
Italy. Grandpa explained to us that among the
immigrants who got to Ellis Island together with
the joy of those who were accepted there was also
the frustration of those who were rejected.
continues to offer hope and periodically we
discuss to slow down or stop this flux of people
who want to enter into our Country.
how can become merciless and indifferent a people
like ours that is formed also by the children and
the grandchildren of other immigrants?
to another story heard from one of my high school
teachers, at the end of WWII when on board a ship
that was taking many Italian prisoners to America
the news arrived that the war was over and that
the boat now had to turn around and to go back to
Italy, many of those prisoners cried desperately.
For them the American dream was over.
Pilgrim Fathers who were among the first to get to
our shores fleeing from the British religious
intolerance, could have never imagined that they
were in fact the first of a long series of
refugees seeking shelter and freedom on the North
Ellis Island with its Museum
of immigration is important also for this
reason. It is a constant reminder that
America was chosen by many not only because it
offered a second chance for a better life but
because it has given the protection of a powerful
sanctuary to innumerable refugees from every part
of the world.
Ellis Island has passed an endless stream of men
of faith, of idealists, of simple fathers and
mothers who have strengthened and developed the
greatest Country in the world. At the same time
they have built a bridge across the ocean that now
unites us and makes stronger the western
civilization of the Old and of the New World.
by Ro Pucci
Texas ; October
Roberto G. Pucci
a U.S. citizen of Italian origin who lives in
Houston, Texas and works as a freelance
photojournalist. Many of his articles and
pictures have been published on “ITALIA ESTERA” and on many
newspapers, press agencies and on other interned
based publications. He is particularly
interested on Italian and American facts and
culture and writes also poems for his picture
Ellis Island links