Saturday, June 2, 2007

An island visit

You can now visit Ellis Island as a tourist, take the ferry out to the island, leisurely stroll the grounds and the exhibits, and leave whenever the next convenient ferry arrives. A visit to that island has not been such an easy or enjoyable experience for everyone. My great-grandmother, Ilona (Bence) Ujlaki, for one, found herself detained there with her sick child while she waited to be cleared for entry into the United States to meet her waiting husband. She arrived on March 2, 1909, after 18 days at sea. Her 2-year-old son, Ferencz, became sick with measles while on board the ship. What should have been the pure joy of arrival in the new country (and finally the chance to get off that horrible boat) turned into even more suffering. Because of her little one's illness, he had to be separated from her and quarantined for a short period of time before he could be cleared for admittance into New York. Not too many pleasant memories of Ellis Island for this little family, I'm afraid.

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