Nick Tullius &
Jody McKim Pharr

The Banat Villages
Home of the Danube Swabian for over 200 years.




Emigrating to America

by Magdalena Dian, nee Jorch

Translated by Diana Lambing
From the Bogarosch HOG website - Published at 2003 by Jody McKim Pharr.

My father was a tailor by trade and was born in Bogarosch on 11th October 1896. My mother was a housewife and was born in Temeswar on 21st September 1900.
My mother did not know her father as he died in an accident three weeks before she was born. Later, her mother got to know a widower who had two sons living in America. They got on well and corresponded with each other. The sons always wrote how well they were doing, so much so that they offered to help my parents get to America if they so wished. My parents gladly accepted this offer for they would not have been able to do it by themselves as they were poor and could not hope for any financial support from their parents. They kept thinking about how they would be able to earn more money, too. Now everything was arranged and within a short time they were able to begin the journey to the land of opportunity. I was to stay behind with my grandparents as my parents had only envisaged staying for a short time to earn some money and then return home. But my uncle wrote that we shouldn’t do it like that. It was possible, yes, but why shouldn’t their own child benefit, too? They should think long and hard about it as without their child they might as well forget the whole idea. I was told later that they did think things over and finally decided to take me with them. It was fine by my grandmother, too, for I would have been a big responsibility for her.
Now we were all agreed and on 23rd July 1923 we traveled to Hamburg where all three of us set sail for New York. The journey lasted three weeks. I was the bravest and was never seasick. My mother was very ill but father got through the journey quite well. When we arrived in New York we were met by my uncle but it was some time before we were let out of the passengers’ collection point.
Now our life in the New World was about to begin. We traveled to Philadelphia where my uncle and his family lived. We, too, settled there - Philadelphia became our new home. We lived with my uncle for a while and then looked for an apartment. We found one and our relatives equipped us with the most necessary items.
Battle began; first of all the apartment had to be cleaned. Then mother and father had to look for work. My father had an elderly aunt who looked after me whilst my parents were at work. Father found a job as a bricklayer and mother was employed in a garment factory. It was difficult for them as they didn’t speak English but some of the workers spoke German. It wasn’t easy for my parents but within a short time everything ran smoothly. So many things had to be bought with the first wage - beginning from scratch in a foreign country is no piece of cake!. It was a good feeling to receive a (very necessary) weekly wage. Right from the beginning the money was divided and a little put by as savings.
First of all we had to buy some clothes so we would fit in with the people there. My aunt worked as a housekeeper for a rich family who took pity on us and helped support us.
I was placed in a Catholic kindergarten where I would also later attend school. It was a convent and we were taught by nuns. The school was called ‘Sacred Heart Hungarian Catholic School’. The priest, Stephan Mihalik, and the nuns, too, were of Hungarian descent. Lessons were in English. I soon found my way around the English language and everything went smoothly until I started school. I was called ‘Helen’ by the nuns. I did well at school and was liked by the teachers.
It was just as well that my uncle insisted on bringing me to America as my grandmother, with whom I should have stayed, died two years later. That would have been a big problem for my parents.
In spite of everything, life carried on. My parents had meanwhile changed jobs; father had passed his driving test and got a job in a furniture store. He drove around the whole of Philadelphia in a big van with a driver’s mate, he did well with the language and soon knew his way around the town better than his mate, who had been born there! He earned good money, which was a big advantage for us. Mother now worked in a knitwear factory and we took in two boarders whom mother looked after. It was a lot of work for her but we needed the money. Then father bought a car for us and we could get out and about more. We were quite content, but this feeling was not to last for much longer.
Father grew ill; he had major kidney problems. One was removed. He was dead set against having such a big operation but when it became a matter of life and death he had no choice. He was no longer able to do the furniture deliveries in the big van, the work was too heavy for him. Then he grew homesick. It began to make life difficult; mother fought against it - she didn’t want to go back. As an only child, she had no relatives left in Europe and her relatives in the USA tried to talk her out of going back. Father was given a small vehicle by his bosses (Dave and Sam Schumann) so he could deliver smaller items around town. The bosses had summer homes in Atlantic City and he chauffeured their families back and forth. Mother and I were often able to go along, too. We got on well with them all and we were always made welcome. Father was given a key to the large furniture store and carried out light duties; he had to keep the store tidy and serve early customers.
But the feeling of homesickness would not leave him; he turned a deaf ear to relatives who tried to persuade him to stay. A house with fields had already been bought for us in Bogarosch. Grandfather had bought it all with the money we had sent him. I had completed the 8th class and had admittance to a higher school. I would have loved to have done further education - I was interested in Art. I went to school for one more year until it was time to leave. I was only 15 and now had to go back to the old Heimat. In August 1934 we sailed back to Hamburg; this time, the journey across the ocean only took one week.
Back in Bogarosch again we began to set up our new home. Father began to work the fields, which was not easy for him as he had never done this sort of work before.
In August 1936, when I was 17 years old, I married my husband, Nikolaus, who was then 22.

And so the American Dream, as had been dreamed by so many people, came to an end. ©2003 Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands, a Non-profit Corporation.
Webmaster: Jody McKim Pharr
Keeping the Danube Swabian legacy alive!
Last Updated: 06 Aug 2019