by Allen Hyman
My immigrant story is about my mother. She was born in a shtetl in Poland-Russia. At that time it was led by the Czarist government - they were cruel, oppressive and overtly antisemetic. About 15 years ago I visited Piatnica, her small village located 50 miles from Warsaw and convenient to Treblinca. There her tiny house still stood. At the time of my visit my uncle was still alive. He clearly described the house where he had lived until he was 8, located on the Narew river.
There were three main reasons for moving to America: overt Jew-hatred, abject poverty and most imminent, the oldest son, 12, was subject to the draft for 25 years. My grandfather left with a caravan of young fathers for NY. He left my grandmother and 3 sons. After 3 years, he saved enough to purchase "schiffcarts" ship tickets for his family. My grandfather had to break the news that he had a daughter, my mother. She was most likely conceived on the night before he left Piatnica. While he was gone, my grandmother supported her family, including her mother by the family "business" of rope making.
My grandparents kept in touch during his absence with the help of a few literate friends who could read and write. I wish I had these letters. Finally the day of departure. My grandmother said good-bye to her mother, knowing she would never see her again. She brought some clothing for herself and four children, feather down pillows, quilt, a few pots, candlesticks and remarkably, food for the three week trip. They were kosher people.
They travelled to Antwerp from Warsaw by train. They had to skip Hamburg, a nearer port, because the Kaiser, Czar's cousin, would have sent them back because Sam, the eldest son, was escaping the draft. They didn't have passage for any specific ship. When they arrived at the port, they simply waited for an available ship that would accept their Schiffcart. There was always room for one more family in Steerage. I always imagine how awful my grandmother must have felt living in an overcrowded tenement, teaming with vermin, noisy and cold in winter and steamy in summer. Although her Piatnica home was primitive, at least it seemed bucolic compared to the lower east side of New York.
My mother left school when she was 12 to work; her brothers finished HS and one went to "night" law school. But her family remained very poor, throughout the 20s and the 30s. I lived with my grandmother until I was six. I wish I could remember exactly how often she referred to her love for America; a goldener land. It sounds more compelling in Yiddish. (my father, American born, was orphaned when he was seven and basically never went to school. But taught himself to read and write and basic arithmetic. That's for another story)
About The Author
Allen Hyman has successfully obtained millions of dollars of tax refunds and savings for clients during his distinguished career. He represents both claimants and condemners in Eminent Domain proceedings throughout the State of New York and other jurisdictions.
At Hofstra University School of Law, Hyman has taught courses in “The Law of Eminent Domain and Tax Review and “Pre-trial Skills.” He currently teaches a course in “Real Estate Transactions.” In addition to his role as an Adjunct Professor of Law, he has lectured at the Nassau Academy of Law, the Institute of Property Taxation and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. He has also authored articles on tax certiorari and condemnation issues in both legal periodicals and the business press.
Active in civic affairs, Hyman serves as a member of the Board of Overseers of Northwell Health. He is a former Chairman of the Board and currently a member of the Board of the Education and Assistance Corporation, a social service organization, which among other things, offers counseling to non-violent offenders as an alternative to incarceration.
Hyman serves on Governor Cuomo’s Judicial Screening Committee for the Second Department. As one of its thirteen members, he is responsible for screening applicants for judicial appointments to all courts including the Appellate Division in the Second Judicial Department. Previously, Hyman served on the governor appointed State Judicial Screening Committee that reviews candidates for the New York State Court of Claims.