Saturday, October 6, 2012

Uprooted: Part XXV

On most Saturday mornings over the past six months this blog has been attempt to tell in serial form the story of Ralph Kand, a young crippled man from Estonia during those difficult and challenging years from 1939-1945. Kand, a young man with a withered leg, fled Estonia when the Red Army began its westward march in autumn 1944. At war's end he found himself in Germany, processing paperwork with the American army.

The War Is Over

Ralph worked at the American army base for three years after the war. There were no life and death close calls or drama of that sort. It was disheartening for him to see Europe parsed out between the Allied powers and so many free peoples now placed under Stalin's regime. For this reason he never ceased from his longing to reach America.

Housing had been arranged and a measure of normalcy began settle in as life routines took shape. Eventually Ralph began to date and at one point developed a serious relationship with a young Jewish woman named Elka. The relationship broke off because Elka would be unable to have children because of "experiments" the Nazis had performed while she was in a concentration camp.

There were countless Eastern Europeans seeking refuge from the Soviet darkness and much of the paperwork Ralph was processing involved helping these refugees reach America, his own dream. Working here helped him see that it was possible. Germany, rebuilding from the destruction caused by the war, could hardly absorb so many masses.

Ralph had made several appeals to be released to emigrate, but the officers felt his linguistic skills useful and were reluctant to endorse his requests. Nevertheless, as he persisted, they softened and the day came when he was able to prepare his own paperwork. The waiting was over.

Within days Ralph was packed, paperwork arranged. A train transported him across Germany to a port where he boarded a boat filled with 600 Lithuanians bound for New York.

For reasons unexplained, the ship bypassed Ellis Island altogether and brought its cargo of Eastern Europeans to New Orleans where Ralph disembarked and began his Americanization. Within the year, chiefly due to the heat that he was unaccustomed to, Ralph travelled north, ultimately settling in Minnesota, an environment not unlike his homeland. His final years were spent in Duluth, always in an apartment that faced the Great Lake Superior, kindling memories of the days of his youth in Tallin on the Baltic Sea, reminiscing over photos of his cousins, brother, father, mother and friends, especially Eitsi, his first love. 


If you're interested in reading this story from the beginning, here's the introduction.

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