Ellis Island is one of the places that I have visited the most, yet each time I go there, I always get something new outof the experience. As I stood on the line for the ferry, I was really looking forward to the boat ride. I always found it to be the best part of the tour, with the cool breeze flowing past you as you sway gently from side to side on the calm waters of the Upper New York Bay. The view was great from the top of the boat, especially now that the Freedom Tower is visible. Looking at New York City from a different perspective is extremely fascinating because you can see what’s beyond the tall skyscrapers.
When I arrived on the island, I noticed many changes since the last time I visited. There was less construction on the building, and the architecture looked extraordinary. I wasn’t sure which exhibit to observe first, so I checked out the American Immigration Wall of Honor. It contains names of individuals or families that immigrated to start a new life in America. It contains over 700,000 names, and it is still open to new entries. Neither my surname, nor my mother’s maiden name, appeared on the wall, since my parents were the first in my family to immigrate to the United States. Surnames, such as Solomon, would have appeared around my last name if it were inscribed in the wall.
I passed through many rooms, but a few really caught my interest. The Treasures From Home exhibit was a room full of artifacts that came from many European countries such as Poland or Italy. I was surprised to see that a lot of pieces such as clothing or glassware came from Ukraine, my home country. There was a beautiful embroidered costume on display, consisting of red, black, and white designs. I noticed that there wasn’t much of a difference in the type of clothing worn by immigrants from Ukraine back then to the traditional clothing that Ukrainians wear now.
Other rooms that really appealed to me were the ones that consisted of a variety of psychological examinations and qualifications in order to be allowed in the United States. These qualifications were quite strict and somewhat ridiculous. For example, unmarried women or those who suffered from certain mental or health conditions were not permitted. If I were immigrating into the United States, I would not have been allowed to enter because I am unmarried.
One exhibit displayed the medical utensils used and types of medical practices performed on immigrants. I compared the tools used back then to the tools used now, and was really shocked to see how much medicine has advanced over the years. Many immigrants who did not pass examinations were kept in the dorms temporarily. When entering these dorms, I encountered clustered bunk beds, an old dusty piano, gray abandoned cribs, and other remains that really portrayed the atmosphere of life on Ellis Island.
Throughout the tour, I was not able to find any information or trace of my family. On the ride back to the city, however, I became really curious about my family history. I was inspired to collect every piece of information I could about my family, ranging from stories to pictures. The Ellis Island trip was truly inspirational and life changing.