My ancestors are originally from Ozarichi, Russia - now infamous for it’s massive concentration camps during the Nazi regime. The small town has a long history of anti-semitism, which prompted my father’s family to escape to the United States in the early 1900s. On July 6, 1923, Elka and Pinia Center (my great-grandparents) arrived at Ellis Island, and passenger records list Elka as a tailor. She likely used her skills to support her growing family in the U.S., but after the Great Depression hit, Elka and Pinia returned to the Soviet Union - once again in search of a better life. There Elka bought another sewing machine (the one seen in this picture) to continue to provide for her family. When my parents and I immigrated to the United States in 2001, a large wooden case was among our minimal possessions, just like it had been in the Center family’s in 1923. The case contained the now-over 65 year old sewing machine, although no one in the family knew how to operate it. It represents the difficulties my grandmother faced to find her place in a new country and her life long struggle to preserve her family and tradition.
– Sofiya Tsenter