Captain's Hat

In Attire

My saba Joe was born in Vilne in 1917, the second oldest of 8 in a loving Jewish family. Long before, his father's family had left their Russian home where they had lived as fisherman. This heritage lived wildly in Joe’s imagination. He dreamed of going to Palestine, of starting a kibbutz and resurrecting a community of Jewish sailors in the Holy Land. He had never seen the sea and he had no means of getting there, but his parents knew his dream. Joe’s dad had a lumber yard and his mother a bakery, whose goods Joe would deliver on sleigh and skis through the Polish winter. One day, unbeknownst to Joe, his parents sold the horse. A gift for their dreamer: the money it fetched would get Joe to the sea and secure a visa to Palestine. Joe joined a group of like-minded Jews training to sail on the Baltic. He made it to Palestine and helped establish a fishing kibbutz. He joined the Dutch Merchant Marines. In 1942 he was bos’n on a vessel covertly carrying ammunition oil to the Allies. A German torpedo struck the ship’s hull and destroyed her in the Atlantic. By grace or by luck every shipmate survived. For days they were on the water, drifting in lifeboats, 500 miles from the nearest shore. An American naval ship found them. It brought them to the United States. Joe turned 25 in New York. He met my grandma. They fell in love. They married. He went back to war, to continue to fight until it was over. He became Captain. A true Jewish sailor. And this is his Captain’s hat.

Place(s): Germany,Russia,Palestine,Vilna
Year: 1942

– Anna Szapiro

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