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Arrival to the United States of America – The Next Generation

Posted by on September 15, 2013

Nineteen years to the month after my grandfather, Yovcho Tzaneff, arrived to the United States from Bulgaria, my father, Steven Tzaneff, followed in his footsteps and arrived himself.  It was June 14, 1947.

As with my previous blog entry, while I had meant to post it on the exact anniversary of my father’s arrival to the United States of America, recent work and travel have prevented me from doing so.    Nevertheless, sixty-six years after my father, Steven Tzaneff, came to America, a story that started with his father continues. 

Unlike my grandfather, my father did not come to America to make money and buy up land back home but rather to gain a higher education.  Shortly before my father passed away, I interviewed him and asked him why he hadn’t remained in Bulgaria for his education.  I found his account of sending a hand-written letter to his father in America asking for permission to study in one of the surrounding countries- Romania, the Czechoslovak Republic (as it was known then) or Turkey a quaint but puzzling one.  My father was perplexed at my question but explained that, just after the war, there weren’t any institutions physically left in Bulgaria to take on this role.  As a child born nearly a quarter century after the Second World War ended, I was fortunate enough not to have understood that war meant restrictions placed on life which extended far beyond that war’s end.  Bulgaria had been so badly damaged by the Second World War that higher education facilities were all but obliterated.

A woman stands amongst the rubble left in a Bulgarian city after the Second World War.

A woman stands amongst the rubble left in a Bulgarian city after the Second World War.

Yovcho Tzaneff, my grandfather, granted my father permission to attend univeristy but told him that if he was going to study abroad he would have to come to America rather than study somewhere in Europe.  “He did not want the whole family scattered” my father explained.  With the Great Depression and the Second World War over, my father’s desire to study abroad meant my grandfather could pull the family back together…in America.  By 1947, my grandfather was in a very comfortable position to sponsor both his son and wife (my father’s mother) on a passage to America and he did just that.

Documents, tickets, instructions and even new clothes (so that they wouldn’t feel out of place in what would soon become their new home) all followed.  The preparation up until the time my father would depart from his homeland was riddled with both excitement and nervous anticipation.  It didn’t help that one member of the family, my father’s sister “Tzanka”, would be staying behind.  She was married and would remain in her village, attending to her family, both immediate and extended.  The idea was that my father would go for four or five years, gain his education, and return back home together with his parents so that the entire family could then finally enjoy the fruits of my grandfather’s labour over the two decades he had been away- a bigger house, more land and the promise of a better life in their  homeland.  The idea was that they would all finally be together again after this journey.

However, at the time, nobody could see that a pattern of ideas and how much they could differ from the reality which eventually resulted, had already begun.

© Kristina Tzaneff

 

One Response to Arrival to the United States of America – The Next Generation

  1. Susie Gutch

    I was fascinated to read your latest piece about how your father left Bulgaria to study in America in 1947. I was under the impression that the Iron Curtain had descended after the war in 1945 and that it was very difficult -if not impossible – for people to leave eastern Europe. In that case,your father and his mother made a lucky escape.It must have changed their lives completely and given them, and their families [including you] wonderful opportunities in the ‘New World’ after the devastation of Europe in the war.
    It’s this kind of life changing journey, and the courage it must have needed to undertake it ,that makes the study of family history so compelling.

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