Leaving for America

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing

Well, here we are. Brussels, 1956. Trunks and cases already on board, documents in order. Friends and well-wishers gathered to see us off, posing for one last time together before the train takes us to the harbor, where we will board the SS Italia for the transatlantic voyage.

I’m the one in the baggy drawers, clutching, most likely, something to read. My brother is on my left, with my mother behind him; next to him is his best Belgian friend (and my first crush), Alain. Behind Alain is my grandmother. My father is second from the end in the back row.

I don’t remember the girl’s name. But I know I desperately wanted a pair of white knee socks just like hers. The reason I couldn’t have them, whatever it was, is lost to history.

Sunshine

“May there always be sunshine, may there always be blue skies/May there always be Mama, may there always be me.”

Galina would have known this song in its original version – used here as the refrain – the sweetly hopeful words composed by a child in 1928. That her mind would take her to this place of safety following an especially difficult ordeal is not at all surprising.

The patriotic verses, set to Ostrovsky’s music, were added by Oshanin later, during the Cold War, mixing martial tones with an innocent message of peace. But the chorus, especially when sung by children, remains captivating and universal, prompting artists like Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and Raffi to each record their own English versions.