In 1914, my teenaged grandmother left her beloved family and traveled alone from Hungary to America to avoid an arranged marriage and mounting anti-Semitism. She walked, took trains and finally made her way to the port in Bremen, Germany. Along the way, she made friends with other young travelers.
To stay with them, she traded her second class ticket for a steerage ticket. Perhaps not her best decision. It was a horrible voyage and she was sea sick most of the time. When she arrived at Ellis Island, she did not look her best. The guards saw her red, swollen, tear-stained eyes as diseased, and chalked her sleeve with a big X—rejected. My grandmother had guts and moxie, and she was not going back to Hungary. She watched and waited, then made her move. Using her own spit, she artfully wiped that X off her coat, then cautiously and carefully moved to the processing line to begin her new life in New York.
Welcome to America, Molly Willinger.
In the center of the panel, she is dressed in a rented bathing suit at Jones Beach.
This was her first date with the man who would become my grandfather.