Thursday, July 4, 2013

America For Me

I was going to save this to go with my next WWII book review, but it feels appropriately patriotic for today.

My husband's grandmother passed away recently and during her funeral I learned a lot about this remarkable woman.

I knew she was born in the late '20s in Germany, and that she came to America when she was young, but I'd never put it all together in the historical context.

Until at her funeral I suddenly thought, "Oh my gosh, she got out just in time."

This is an essay she wrote (and it won the essay contest!), posted here with permission from my husband's aunt(s).

She wrote this in 1942, when she was about 14 years old.

I hope we can all feel this way about our country.  Happy Fourth of July!!

America For Me

America has been the hope of the world, the hope the dream of millions of immigrants who, like me and my family, came to America to find the things we could not find in another country.

I came to America only six years ago.  It seems such a long time ago now.  The country where I came from was quite unlike America.  In that country there is no freedom.  The people have no hopes or opportunities, they too were once a free people, but that is gone now, but someday they shall be a free people again.  Like a great wise man said, "This too must pass."

In America we have all these things.  We all have an equal chance to go forward whether we are rich or poor.  Some of our greatest men who like Andrew Carnegie came to this country as a small boy and built for himself a great fortune, but he gave much of it for the cause of humanity.  Perhaps had not he and his parents come to the United States he might not have had the chance he did have.

In America we have freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion.  In Germany there are no such freedoms.  I remember one day as I was going to school a teacher was walking on the other side of the street.  He gave a salute, not seeing him I failed to return it.  When the teacher and I arrived at school I got a good scolding and a lecture about my disloyal behavior.  If it had happened again I might have got into serious trouble.

Have you ever realized how many luxuries we have?  In our home in Europe we had no gas or electric stove, but an old coal stove.  We had no ice box or telephone, or a washing machine.  Here we go out riding in  automobiles and to the movies once a week, but over there we went walking on sunny days and stayed home and amused ourselves in other ways on rainy days.  If we went to the movies once a month we were quite extravagant.  Here in America we are a free people.  We have no fears that a friend of neighbor might turn out to be an enemy.  I shall never forget the tramp tramp of soldiers feet and the rumble of tanks and artillery that were continually going through our town.  The soldiers also had to have a place to sleep, so every family in the town had to give up a room so two or three soldiers would have a place to sleep.  Yes!  That nation was preparing for a great and dreadful war.  Here in America the boys were playing their favorite games, football, basketball and baseball, with never a thought of war, and that's the way it should be in any peace loving nation.

I'm indeed thankful to be here in America, the land of Freedom, that I can say, do and think what I like without fear of anyone or anything.  Although I was only eight when I came here, I was old enough to be able to contrast the life I had left behind with the new one.

Fate was indeed kind to me to bring me to America, the land of liberty.  I want to be a good American, living up to my responsibilities.  I'm proud of America and I want America to be proud of me.

Irmgard Pirente Feb 22 1942

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