Sunday, January 30


I remember as one moment of joy the arrival of the 100,000th displaced person in New York. He struck me as a kind of Everyman, a Pole with maybe a seventh-grade education. In 1939 he'd been called out for what he thought would just be military maneuvers, and he found himself in an actual shooting war. He was captured and made a slave laborer in Germany. After the war he was in a displaced persons camp and applied for an American visa. But he kept being turned down, seven or eight times, because the X-rays showed a shadow on his lungs, a sign of TB. Finally the shadows disappeared, and they gave him a visa. In New York, they'd arranged a big reception ... He was holding onto his last X-ray sheets and as he was getting ready to come through, before the band began to play, he wanted to hand the X-ray sheets to the officials as proof that the shadows were gone. But they wouldn't take them. Instead, the officials confiscated the half-dozen oranges someone had given him as a present ... he smiled and walked on through and the band struck up with the music.

-- Eileen Egan For Whom There Is No Room: Scenes from the Refugee World