I had meant to post this blog on the exact anniversary of my grandfather’s arrival to the United States of America- June 1, 1928. Unfortunately however, with my current work in Bulgaria taking up more hours in the day than actually exist, I have already missed a few intended postings. My reasoning amuses me as my grandfather’s thoughts upon arriving to the United States probably did not include his granddaughter working in the country of his birth even though she was born in America. As my father told me, Yovcho Tzaneff had not intended to make a life in America.
My father was Yovcho Tzaneff’s son. When Yovcho arrived in America, my own father, Steven Tzaneff, was just over one year old. Yovcho had temporarily left his wife and children back in Bulgaria in order to join his brother in America and take advantage of the job he had arranged for him working in a steel mill located in East Chicago, Indiana. According to my father, my grandfather’s sole intention of coming to the US was to make some money to buy up land in the village from which he came and thus amass property he could otherwise not afford. My father also told me that my grandfather’s intention of going to America was unlike Yovcho’s brother who had decided to remain in America and who had even brought the rest of his family over by then.
Arriving to the United States of America must have felt like a bit of an assault as a potential immigrant had to wait in a variety of queues to be “processed” for consideration. A myriad of requirements greeted new immigrants upon their arrival- everything from getting through the brief interview at a podium where an immigration officer tested their English and wrote down their names and details as he happened to hear them, not necessarily how they were meant to be spelt, to waiting in long queues for medical inspections.
After waiting for hours in queues outside the building, there was now a process which awaited each new aspiring American inside the building. One of the most important hurdles in arriving to the United States was the medical inspection process. This process was meant to understand whether potential immigrants were healthy or would become a public burden in America due to medical or legal reasons. However, depending on the class of travel to America, the inspection process differed, the logic being that if a person could afford to travel on a first or second class ticket (versus those who travelled “steerage” or as third class passengers), he or she would be less likely to become a burden on American society.
While my grandfather passed all the tests and made it through all the hurdles, the few years he had intended to spend in the US soon turned into many years as the Great Depression hit one year after his arrival and then the Second World War began. The years my grandfather ended up spending in America were long and hard ones but Yovcho Tzaneff gained a promotion in life- from that of an agricultural worker to an industrial blue collar labourer. This couldn’t happen back in Bulgaria at the time. The world in 1928 and the years soon thereafter meant the greatest economic opportunities to be found were in America but, as with most opportunities, these came at a cost.
© Kristina Tzaneff