A Little Bit of Life

My Family’s Journey to Escape Communism

My Family’s Journey – Written by my son for his 5th grade Family Tree project many years ago.

This is the story of how my grandfather’s family came to America.

My great-grandfather and his family fled from the Russian occupation of Latvia, and after spending most of World War II in Germany, came to America.  Latvia became part of the country of Russia in 1940 as a result of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact.  I think my great-grandfather was very courageous.

In 1948, my grandfather immigrated to the United States with his mother, father, brother, and grandmother.  They had all escaped from their home country of Latvia in 1944 after the return of the Russians that came into Latvia and their imposition of communist control over the country.

My father's imigration picture taken when he was 6.

This is a picture of my dad (my son’s grandfather).  It is his immigration picture taken when he was 6 years old.

My great-grandfather was strongly against the communists.  Because of his opposition to the Russians, he and his entire family had been scheduled to be arrested.  If arrested, they would be shipped to work camps in Russia. Luckily, a close friend of my great-grandmother found out about the intended arrest and warned her.  They packed their bags, buried family valuables and left in the night.

After their escape, they made their way into Germany and lived there, moving from one area of the country to another to avoid war activities. At the end of World War II, they entered an American operated displaced persons camp near the small town of Hersbruck, Germany. (Here is a link to another family’s account of life in Hersbruck.)

My great-grandfather wanted to move to Australia, but Australia would not accept older people like my great grandmother’s mother.  They were accepted to come to America under a special program that was developed by a group of farmers in Mississippi.  They needed people to work on their farms, so they agreed to take families and pay for their transportation to America.  In return, the families agreed to work on the farms until they were able to repay the farmers.

My grandfather’s family came by boat to America and landed in New Orleans, Louisiana.  They worked on a dairy farm in Senatobia, Mississippi until they had repaid the farmer who took them in.  Then they moved to Memphis, Tennessee where the surviving family members still live today.  Also, in 1991, the Latvian parliament voted for full independence from Russia and banned communism completely.  It is now an independent country again.


WOW!  Even though this is a very simplified version of the story, I am so very glad that I have it documented!

And honestly, I am kind of glad that Australia wouldn’t take my grandparents because my great-grandmother was too old.  If that hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t be here today!  My grandfather worked so hard to make a comfortable life for his family.  I recently learned from my dad that after working on the farm to pay back their travel costs, my grandfather went to work in Memphis on a road crew paving roads.  He would live in Memphis, renting a room shared with several other men.  My grandmother, uncle and dad still lived in a tiny house in Mississippi and my grandfather would come home on the weekends.  After a while, the whole family moved to Memphis and my grandparents worked at a paper mill.  Eventually, my grandfather and uncle went into business together – living the American Dream of owning their own business!

This is what we are activating for – fighting for – the opportunity to work hard and earn a living.  Personal pride in building your life to the best of your abilities.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip into history with me!

Until next time,

Stephanie Ferrara

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.