As a boy, I always thought that Italy was the best place in the world. Not that I’ve been anywhere else in my life, but from the stories other people told us, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I had so much fun with my brother, Rodolpho, although he always seemed a bit different. He used to walk around singing and dancing, he once asked our mum to teach him how to sew. The funny thing is, that although we grew up and became more mature, he still likes to sing and dance and sew. I never quite understood this, but anyway…
I first became interested about the idea of moving to the USA, when I’ve heard that my childhood friend, Francis Coppola became a millionaire. So I thought, hold on a sec, I could do that. I’m much smarter and talented than him. But than I realised that I have a much more important thing to take care of: my family. My wife and my three children are more important to me then anything else in the world. But as time passed by, I heard more and more good news about opportunities in the States.
Italy is not the place, or at least it wasn’t a place than which you could call “economically developed”, so you were lucky if you could get any kind of a job at all. That’s why so many Italians believed in the American Dream, we didn’t really have any other chances. My job for example was to push up taxis from the docks to the hills. If you were lucky, you could’ve got a few coins, but there were so many of us for one taxi, that literally we had to stand in a queue, and wait for our turn.
I talked about it with my wife, I told her that I could go to the U.S., work for a couple of months and send my wage back to them. She didn’t really like the idea, and she said it was too risky. She had some good points. For example, how am I going to get on a ship, and what guarantees that it does actually go to America? Second, what if the American immigration officers find us in the ship? Thirdly, where am I going to live? Who’s going to get me a job? I mentioned the idea to Rodolpho and he seemed to be quite positive about it, he wanted to go with the first ship available. Finally I’ve agreed with my wife that when I’ve earned enough money, I will go back to them, and decide whether we’re going to move to the U.S. of A. or stay in Italy.
One day I was looking at the family photo album, and there was this picture of a girl on it. I just couldn’t think of who she was. Than I’ve realised that it was my mother’s eldest sister’s daughter. I never saw her in my life; I’ve just remembered that she married an Italian guy in New York. I sent a letter to her asking if she could let us stay with them for a while. Soon she replied with a positive answer.
I talked to this guy called Tony; he arranged the whole journey for my brother and me. So when the date of departure came, I looked upon the ship with joy, but also with fear. My wife and children were crying, and my heart was going to break when looked at them. I had time for a quick hug, but then I had to go. On my way up to the ship, I noticed that there were hundreds of other people also saying goodbye to their relatives (for some forever).
For some reason, I had a bad feeling about this whole trip. I mean I didn’t even know what cousin Beatrice or her husband (Eddie) was like. But than I thought if they’re not that sympathetic, we can just move somewhere else. Rodolpho by the way wanted to come for a different reason: he wanted to become an American citizen.
The ship itself was an old cargo ship; we had to work on it as a compensation for our transportation. I was put in the engine area. It was really loud and dirty down there; this is the drawback of being strongly built. But at least I didn’t have to clean the captain’s toilet or anything like that. In the evenings I used to wonder about what it is going to be like there. I tried to imagine the people, and the whole place. I knew New York was going to be massive compared to the little village we come from. Rodolpho was really looking forward to it, he was singing Paper Doll all day.
One day, quite unexpectedly, our captain told us that we’re going to arrive the next morning. None could sleep that night. Everyone was so exited, some people made bets about which one of them will spot the coasts of the ” Land of opportunities” as they’ve called it first. And as the first rays of light came up from the east, we could see the outlines of the Statue of Liberty in the misty morning fog. This statue represented all our hopes and dreams, so it’s no surprise that everyone started shouting with joy and happiness.
As we were getting closer, the statue was getting bigger and bigger, for us it looked like a giant “Welcome” sign. Then our captain told us that we had to go to our hiding places, and that Tony is going to tell us what to do. We were hiding until sunset, but we had to wait until 10 to actually get of the ship. Then ten o’clock came, and me and Rodolpho made our first step on our new homeland towards a new and hopefully better life…