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An Armenian Immigrant's Experience in the United States

Nazar Melkonian, Armenian Survivor

Later on, they made an affidavit; they send it to me. And I came -- not exactly, I didn't come to America. I came to Canada. First I came to Canada, and I stayed there only two or three weeks. This has happened to me in 1923, '22, '23. So I came to Canada, Montreal, Canada. Then from there I came to Windsor, but I knew already they have arrangement, you know. They were going to send somebody -- I came to Windsor, Canada. They already made an arrangement from America that somebody going to come and see you.

So somebody came out there, which I did see them and I knew who he was, from when I was a kid I knew. He said, "You know what, you are going to walk with somebody. You're not gonna -- you can't speak English anyway. You going to walk with somebody. He's going to take you in a boxcar, train boxcar. And don't say anything until you get in the boxcar. So you get in the boxcar, the man says (inaudible)."

The train move, the train move under the water, got out in Jefferson, West Jefferson. I remember it just like. We went under the tunnel, got out at Jefferson. Streetcar was only six cents them days -- I know you weren't around. Six cents the streetcar. The man took me with the streetcar, we came downtown Detroit. Now I escaped from Canada; you know that illegal, because I escaped from United States to -- yeah, Canada. From Canada I escaped to United States.

Anyway, so finally when we got downtown the man says, "Now you are your own, Nazar. You are in United States." So I have an address. My brother's address is Harrington. I don't know what the number is, and I show the cabman. I said -- and I'm not speaking, you know: motion, you know. "Can you take me to this address?" Why, sure, sure he'll take me. So he brought me to the Harrington. I didn't have the money with me. I walked in the house. "Oh, my God! This is a big man now." Well, I was only little kid, ten years later. I've grown up big man now. So I asked him, "Give me couple dollars." They give me a couple dollars, I hand it over to the cab, and that's what it is. So that's the whole thing.

And finally I stayed over there, with my brother.  They send me to school for a couple of thirty days. They have a special grade for newcomers, you know. Well, I did Higgins School; I think it is on Lafayette [Boulevard], Higgins. I remember, you know.  And finally, the school days were over; it was summer time.  My brother says, “You know, we have a sister in New York State. I want you to go out there, see your sister.” And that was in April sometime—, no, later, later on. I don’t know exactly when. Anyway, —so I went out there. It happened my sister lost her husband, Tom. Well, I didn’t know that.  She had three, four kids. So anyway my sister see’s me, she says, "My God, Nazar, you’re a big man.”  She left—when  she left the country, my country, she was only thirteen years old.

Somebody came from America, you know, and got married with her.   When they came to the (inaudible) you know, in the—they asked, “Who’s this?”  “This is my daughter.” The man was maybe thirty-five years old, older.  Anyway, to make it short, I stay with my sister for a little while.  Finally my brother sends—I did it back and forth, I’m grownup man anymore, and I wanted to get married.  So I came to Detroit again, got acquainted with another girl. I got married and that’s that, that’s the last part of it. I had kids, kids of my own, and that I been here in since 1924. So I am just about seventy-four, seventy-five years in good old U.S.A. Each and every day that I am here, I'm a free man. Thank God that I am here. And that's the whole thing.

Nazar Melkonian
An Armenian Immigrant's Experience in the United States