Friday, November 30, 2018

#23 ~ January 1976 ~ Good bye Italy!

1976 New Year celebration was very bitter sweet for us. We had about 10 families get together to celebrate the New Year. Some families were already informed that they will be leaving Italy to go to the United States, but most of us were still waiting.
Our first choice of destination for permanent residency was Canada (we were told by the "experts" that Canada is in great need of PE teachers, coaches and Physical Fitness instructors). But as soon as it was known that I was pregnant, we were refused the entry visas to Canada. We had to re-apply for the entry visa to the United States.
We said "good bye" to many families that we got to know during our 7 months stay in Italy. We all promised to keep in touch, but we also knew that once someone left Italy, they never looked back.
On January 5th we had an appointment at the HIAS office. Without any hopes or expectations we went to Rome. It was a full day affair. But to our great surprise and delight, we were informed that the Jewish Federation of Hartford, Connecticut agreed to sponsor our family and we will be leaving Italy on January 15th. We had only 10 days to get ready, pack, and prepair for the journey. We came home that day very excited and energized, pulled out the map of the United States and started looking for Hartford on the map. Where is it? Where is our new home going to be? Not only we could not find the city, we could not even find the state! We were told that Hartford is the world capital of insurance, that it is located in New England. Well, it did not tell us much. I've heard of New York and Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas, but we had never even heard of Hartford.
But it did not upset or disturb us. We were very excited and looked forward to our journey across the Atlantic from Italy to the US. What bothered me all of the sudden was the memory of the lectures in school and college about America: all the daunting images of the "evil" American people, intimidating and angry police, poor people being exploited by the capitalists, images of black people in jail, war hungry government, etc. I knew that it was nothing but propaganda, but it was so powerful. And I started  questioning our decision again, if we were doing the right thing. But it was NO TURNING BACK...
So, on bright and sunny day on January 15, 1976 we said "Arividerchi" to Italy and set on our way to the United States of America!
Flight was very long and I did not feel very well. Although I enjoyed the comfortable seats, great food, wonderful service and free movies!!! And  everyone was very attentive, thoughtful and kind. And before we knew it, we landed in New York City. Looking out of the window of the terminal we saw houses, roads, cars, huge cars. I've never seen such long and big cars in my life. This was our new home. Are we going to be happy here? Are we going to make it? I was so nervous and excited and the same time. We were told that we will spend one night in New York and in the morning we will take another flight to Hartford. I was looking around, looking for monsters and "evil" people, but all I saw was friendly and pleasant looking crowd, smiley men, lovely women and beautiful, healthy children. Everything looked so clean, organised and orderly. So where are the "war loving monsters" that lived in America???!!!
We were met by a very nice man who welcomed us to the US, took us to the nearby hotel, gave us vouchers  for dinner and said that he will come and get us in the morning. Wow! I felt that I finally came home! We were safe, happy and secure. My baby girl was safe and fed and happy and the new life inside of me gave me even more strength, vigor and confidence that everything is going to be OK!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

#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, November 20, 2018

#25 ~ Spring 1976 ~ Hartford, CT

Every day we woke up, we were wondering if this is for real, is anyone going to come and take it all away...The apartment, the furniture, clothes, dishes...  But the fact was that after being without a home for so long, we finally had one. Our new friends were coming to visit every day to bring more groceries or toys for Masha, take us out, or just to talk and explain things. Oh, we all  had so many questions. I think I had a surprise on my face at all times. One day Diane and Sharon came and brought a huge box full of clothes and said that it was all for me. FOR ME???????? I was almost 8 months pregnant and had only one dress, if you can call it a dress :-(  that I wore every day. "Well, here is maternity clothes for you". What is maternity clothes? I did not have to open my dictionary, because I understood after they showed me a pretty blouse. I was so astonished that special clothes for pregnant women even existed and that I will be able to wear it. It was beautiful! I started trying things on at once. Shirts, jackets, pants with stretchable elastic, dresses... It was unreal! We had such a great afternoon. After that I was changing my outfits at least 3 times a day!
Our landlady Dorothy was very helpful. Every time she would go shopping, she would take me with her. We bought eggs in one store, then drove to the bakery to buy bread, and then go to the big grocery store to get the rest. She would show me how to shop, teach me what to look for, how to get the best bargain. But I kept thinking what an incredible place we live in now, how lucky we are and hoped that it will never change.
Felix and Ida started going to the evening English classes every day and came home with new words, expressions and big smiles. But I was still the designated person to answer the phone, translate and talk to people.
In 2 weeks after being in the USA, our Social worker Mr. Kay came and said that he found a job for Felix at the General Elevator company. Felix will have to take a bus to work and find his way around town. Evelyn had an old bicycle, so Felix used it to get to a bus stop.
I stayed home with Masha. I cleaned and cooked and started to feel more comfortable and at ease with my surroundings.
We were introduced to more families, who were so helpful, loved to teach and show us the American way of life. In the beginning of  March, And Felix worked for a few weeks, Dorothy (the landlady) took us to the bank to open the checking account. I COULD NOT understand, how it worked... How the little piece of paper could substitute money? I did not even know what questions to ask...I just listened. But after we made our first deposit, and after I wrote my first check for rent, I understood... We were on our way! I loved it! We were in charge of our lives. We will work hard, we will save, and we will be happy. We did not have to say it, we knew it!

Our friends started talking about buying a car. A CAR????? For us??????? Martin said that he will help. He also explained that having a car in the USA is a necessity, not a luxury. We need it to get around. And he did help to buy our first car! It was cheap, and looked like an ambulance. It was white and big, but it was ours!
Martin (he helped to buy our first car), Linda, Marina, Sylvia, Masha, Ida, and Felix ~ March 1976

My first doctors appointment went very well, even though I was nervous and uneasy. He was gentle, kind and attentive and said that the baby is doing very well, but I need to take vitamins and eat more.
I am so sad that I did not write the names of all the doctors that helped us. I would love nothing more than to express my gratitude and thankfulness to them: to my obstetrician, to the pediatrician, who took such a great care of Masha and Elizabeth, the dentist who helped to save my teeth. Literally!
I am looking back and thinking how lucky we are, how very fortunate!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

#26 ~1976~Coming to America!

Back to the Beginning
Previous Post:1971 ~ Glimpse into adulthood

1975 ~ Ostia Lido, Italy ~ Felix Davidovich, Marianna ( Masha) Davidovich, Marina Davidovich. "First Jeans!!!"

Here we are again...another 4 years and another exciting summer ahead with world caliber athletes competing in London, England. I remember like it was yesterday when the United States decided to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. I came to this country on January 15, 1976 from the former Soviet Union (now Ukraine) and immediately found myself with the desire to bring the sport of Rhythmic Gymnastics to the United States. Nobody had even heard of this sport or could even help me find any clubs or programs where Rhythmics was offered.

1976 ~ Hartford,  CT ~ Elizabeth Davidovich, Marina Davidovich, Felix davidovich, Marianna ( Masha) Davidovich
At that time, my husband Felix Davidovich, my  mother-in-law Ida Davidovich, my 2-yr-old daughter and I resided in Hartford, CT. I was pregnant with my second child and was very busy trying to learn English and the American way of life (which is another story).  My second daughter was born in April 1976. Three months later (July) I was advised by my ESL teacher (Symon Yavner) that the New Britain YWCA had a big gymnasium and maybe they would know about Rhythmic Gymnastics. Without knowing English, we had to get in the car and drive to inquire about this possibility. After meeting the program coordinator, I had to demonstrate what Rhythmic Gymnastics was and he said "you look like a cowgirl" since I was demonstrating rope skills. He immediately offered me a job teaching women and called this Women's Gymnastics since I didn't know how to translate "Rhythmics" into the English language...

Next Post: 1976 - Simple Beginnings