The accompanying photo is of my great grandmother and my grandfather in the hillside of Padua, Italy in 1944. My grandfather was nine and inherited his grandfather’s accordion and learned to play from his father. Although this photo was taken in Italy, the origins of our immigration story are in Vienna, Austria. My family fled from the Jewish ghetto created in Vienna in 1944 to the strongly Catholic northern farmland of Italy. A family took them in and hid them in their barn throughout World War II. Before my grandfather left Vienna, he was told he could take only a few things from his home and the first thing he chose was his accordion. He understood the importance of the family heirloom and preserving the knowledge of our Austrian–Italian Jewish heritage. After the war ended, my family left Italy and immigrated to the United States. My grandfather chose his accordion to take with him on the journey across the Atlantic. On the long voyage, he recalled playing his accordion for the people on the ship. Once they arrived, his accordion was checked in through Ellis Island and to this day it has the stamp from his arrival. That accordion is a symbol of the struggle and resilience of my ancestors through the Holocaust and leaving behind everything they knew to escape religious persecution.
– Caroline Rudin