Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#24~1976~Hartford, CT

On January 16, 1976 we woke up bright and early. As much as I liked this room and especially the bathtub and a shower, I was anxious and excited. Today we were going home! We did not know where our home was or how we are getting there or what we are going to find there, but we knew that we were going home. At that point we did not have anyone else who spoke Russian. All the families that came with us from Italy were flying to different cities, so we had to speak English and understand everyone around us. I don't remember how we got to the airport, but I remember sitting on the plane and thinking that this plane is not as big as the other one and the food was not as good as the other one and there was no movie!!! When I mentioned it to Felix, he gave me such a hard time and said that I am getting used to good things too fast and that I am getting spoiled. He was right. It humbled me for a while. Flight was short. When we arrived to Hartford and came out of the plane, we saw a group of people looking at us, waving their hands, smiling and coming over towards us with flowers. They were there to meet us, to welcome our family to the United States of America, to welcome us HOME!!! They were from the Jewish Family Service and National Council of Jewish women. I did not know it then, I know it now.
Diane, Sharon, Mr.Kay, Barbara and Marsha. They were so excited, especially when they saw that I was pregnant. They were talking all at once and I had hard time translating what they were saying to Felix and Ida. I could not understand most of it, but I felt that they were happy to meet us.
Such lovely, kind and generous people! They became our friends for the rest of our lives. Then we saw their cars! Long, big station wagons. I have never seen anything like this. All the cars in Europe were compact and small. These cars looked like buses to me. Amazing!!!
We put our luggage in the cars, got in and started driving. First I was impressed that WOMEN were driving and I thought to myself: "I will never be able to do it, but I would love to!" I was looking for tall buildings, big stores, bridges, but all I saw were 2-3 story houses, quiet and mostly empty streets, lots of trees and snow, lots of snow.
I was very confused: "Are we still in America?" Diane was smiling and said: "Yes, You are in America".
Then we stopped at the restaurant, I think it was Pizza Hut. We were sitting at the table and baby Masha immediately fell asleep on my knees. We ate pizza, drank Coca Cola and I was so happy. Everything seemed like in a dream and I was hoping that that dream will never end.
After we finished our lunch, Diane said: "Let's get you home!" In my wildest dreams I could not imagine what happened next.
Our first home in Hartford, CT. Our apartment on the 3rd floor.
We arrived at 53 Arnold Street in Hartford. It was a nice, 3-story light blue building with balconies, small back yard and a garage in the back. Our apartment was on the 3rd floor. When we walked in, I asked "Who lives here?" And all of the women smiled and said: "You do". It was the most beautiful site I've ever seen. Big kitchen, dining room, living room, 2 bedrooms, bathroom. And all of this for us? We don't share it with anyone? Furniture is ours too? I was walking around and touching everything, almost afraid that if I do or say anything, it will all disappear, vanish. I was crying, Ida was crying, I don't remember if Felix was crying, but baby Masha was running around and even her little feet made a happy noise. There was food in the refrigerator, flowers on the table. A little later our landlady, Dorothy walked in with a big smile and a huge basket of fruits. It was not a dream, it was so much better! That's what happiness is. We were free! We were home!!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

1985, July 15-25, The 12th Maccabiah Games

1932... A milestone in Jewish sports history. The vision of a world-wide sporting event becomes a reality. A total of 350 courageous athletes traveled to Palestine for the first Maccabiah Games. Twelve Americans journeyed across the ocean to represent the United States in this landmark athletic event.
1985...Another milestone in Jewish Sports history. Participation has grown to over 4,000 athletes who represented 4-0 Nations. What commonly known as "Jewish Olympics" has become the pinnacle of amateur athletic competition among Jews, who gather in Israel every 4 years from the far reaches of the World.
I was so proud to be a Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach to represent the US at the 12th Maccabiah Games!
On July 8th we all got together at the Rutgers University campus, located in New Jersey for a 3 day preparation camp "Pre-camp". This was the initial gathering of the entire US 12th Maccabiah Games contingent, over 1,000 people. It was so fascinating to meet athletes from all over of the United States in all the different sports. It provided the opportunity for athletes to meet their teammates and coaches prior to departure. It was imperative to disseminate information about the procedures, schedules and events in Israel. We had lectures, we were shown movies, given literature about Israel and the Games, evening entertainment, uniform alteration and of course information on safety.
On July 10th, a 10-bus caravan rolled out of the Rutgers campus for JFK Airport. The surge of energy radiating from each member of the US delegation was unmeasurable!
The ten hour flight to Israel passed swiftly with the buzzing of conversation,card games, walkmans, naps, and even hot bagels. At last the sign flashed "fasten your seat belts"... We were landing in Israel! Clad in red, white and blue Adidas warm-ups, the American delegation promenaded down the gateway to the cheers of the Israeli media. Once through the customs and luggage collection, we all boarded buses to different  accommodation centers. We stayed at the Wingate Institute, not too far from Tel Aviv.
Our accommodations were very much military style. Small beds, tiny bedside table and few chairs. But everything was very clean and orderly. We woke up at 7am for breakfast at the big cafeteria: hard boiled eggs, bread, tomatoes and cucumbers. Training at 8am. Free time until 3pm.Training again at 4pm. Dinners were wonderful: delicious food, loud and  happy people, singing and dancing afterwards. We did have military protection at all times. Soldiers with rifles on the roofs, in the hallways, on the buses. It was so strange at first, but after few days it was part of our lives.
The opening ceremony, July 15, 1985 was a celebration of pomp and pageantry that will be everlasting in my memory. Ramat Gan Stadium overflowed with 55,000 zealous spectators and over 4,000 Jewish participants from 40 Nations. All were united by a love of sport and a common heritage. Barriers of language, culture, age melted under the stadium lights. Mark Spitz, 2-time Maccabiah participant was the first non-Israeli to light up the torch symbolizing the commencement of the Games.

Our competition was held in the Sports Center in Tel Aviv. Girls did an outstanding job, taking Gold medals All Around and in individual events.
            I will treasure every moment of these 2 weeks for the rest of my life!