My family is from Russia. We are moving to America. We go by boat.
We are poor. We travel in steerage. It is the cheapest. It is the lowest level on the ship. It is gross. It smells bad. It is dark. It doesn’t have windows. Many get seasick.
Our trip takes three weeks. We stay in steerage. We cannot leave. Many people get sick. A few die.
The ship slows down. We go to the deck. We see America! We see Lady Liberty! Some laugh. Some cry. Some hug. Some cheer.
We get off the ship. A small boat takes us to Ellis Island. We are scared. What if they don’t let us in? What if they turn us away? We do not want to go back.
We get to Ellis Island. We go into the Great Hall. It is 52 feet tall. It is full of people. We get in line. We wait in line for hours.
We each get a number. They pin mine to my shirt. Then we see doctors. They check us.
Papa once hurt his leg. Now he limps. We cannot go. We must stay for the night. We are scared. Will they send us back?
They give us food. The food is odd. There is a fruit. It is long and yellow. What is this fruit? We do not know!
The next day a doctor sees Papa. He says that Papa is OK. We can move on.
Next we answer questions. What is your name? Where are you going? Do you have money? What will you do for work? Do you have family in America? Is anyone waiting for you?
I tell the man my name. It is Joseph Markovitch. He writes my name. He writes Joe Markov. I am too afraid to say anything. What if he gets mad? Will he send me home?
We are free to go! We get on a small boat. It takes us to New York. I am now Joe Markov. I am now American!