In 1913, Helen Gaynor arrived in America for the first time. She was 5 years old and had sailed from Poland in a cargo ship with her sister and mother. Their farm had been confiscated and war threatened to overrun the country.
When the ship reached New York, Mrs. Gaynor remembers, the adults wept at the sight of the Statue of Liberty. But another sight caught her eye and became her first strong memory of the United States: ”My most vivid recollection was seeing the unusual fruit in the vendors’ carts: oranges and bananas.”
”I came as a medical student from the University of Vienna just after Hitler invaded and destroyed all my credentials,” wrote Dr. Andrew J. Manchak, who is now a podiatrist in Oscoda, Mich. ”Because my wife and I both passed through Ellis Island and saw the the wonderful Statue of Liberty, we have a deep interest in the goal of her preservation.”
Mrs. R. G. Spross, who lives in Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y., recalled: ”My father, a medical officer in the Russian White Army, came over to this country in 1924. I was not able to follow him until 1929. I still remember the awe I felt when the S.S. Leviathan docked at Ellis Island and I had to wait there for him to come get me.”
”My family’s story is common,” wrote Lynn A. Schenk of Sacramento, Calif. ”War and persecution in Europe, a dream of and escape to freedom, and finally (or should I say beginning with) Ellis Island. Ellis Island has always been the subconscious symbol of that which drives me to contribute and to achieve.” ‘A Symbol of the Good Life’
– Douglas McGill, New York Times, May 22, 1983