Steerage Documents

Steerage documents from Ellis Island
Steerage documents from Ellis Island

Kocham cię. Just as, "I love you," marks the extent of my ability to speak Polish, so too did it mark the extent of my great grandfather's willingness to speak English (or to speak at all for that matter). Pavel Dzierba was truly a man of few words, and thus little is known about his life, except for those stories that were translated by my great grandmother then retold by my father, Robert. In an effort to learn more about Pavel's immigration to the U.S., my family visited Ellis Island in January of 2013, 100 years after he left Poland and arrived in New York City. According to my great grandfather's steerage documents, he came to the U.S. at the age of 17 with the intent of visiting an uncle upstate in Buffalo, New York. While it's unclear whether or not he actually went to see his uncle, he did end up traveling to Buffalo and establishing a life for himself there. Like many at the time, he found work in a factory, married young, and raised many children—nine to be exact. My father recalls spending a lot of time at Pavel’s house as a child, enjoying the loud laughter of a bingo game or the smell of his grandmother’s cooking. Even more, he remembers the feeling of Pavel’s rough beard when he would kiss him on the cheek and say, “I love you, Robby.”

Place(s): Poland
Year: 1913

– Francesca Adamski

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more