An Orange

A ripe orange.
A ripe orange.

For two long weeks in late October the high seas of the North Atlantic raged, and the Banchevskys wondered when they would see dry land again. They huddled together in steerage, comforting one another as their ocean liner mimicked the motion of a seesaw. While they were fleeing the brutality of the Russian Revolution, they could not escape the threat of illness. In the early 1900s, scurvy commonly befell immigrants crossing the Atlantic. Crews would often hand out citrus as a cheap over-the-counter medication. Anna - my grandmother - was a shy, sick, seven-year-old who didn’t speak a word of English. When she was handed a peculiar, bright, round ball she didn’t know what to think. Merely understanding that she was just given a piece of food, Anna bit right into the fruit without having peeled it. The poor girl was horrified by the bitter taste and texture. Another passenger witnessed the mistake and couldn’t help but laugh. He then showed her how to peel and eat the otherworldly treat. Her eyes lit up as the sweet, sugary taste enveloped her mouth. Now, nearly 100 years after that moment, I can’t help but think about Anna’s simple act. I drink orange juice almost every morning. I have access to anything a person could want or need. My grandmother and her family had nothing. It’s easy to forget the struggles of the people that came before us. Regardless of the seemingly ordinary nature of an orange, I cherish it, because it’s a constant reminder of how far my family has come.

Place(s): Russia
Year: 1921

– Brian Gersten

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant