February 8, 2016

Denver to Sweet Home Chicago

Mother with Brother in Italy
Having immigrated to Italy to escape communist Hungary, my family patiently waited for their application for political immunity to be approved by the United States.

Once their application was approved, they traveled by ocean liner to New York where they boarded the Denver Zepher to Denver, Colorado where a sponsor from Catholic Charities waited for them.  They would live in Denver for five years before moving to Chicago.

While I was always told they left Denver because our father couldn't find work, I would later learn they were escaping because the truth of what they were doing to their own children was no longer a secret they could hide behind the closed doors of their apartment. It would be years before I learned the truth about the monstrosities they had committed in Denver.

I was five years old when they escaped to Chicago. 

Father with brother in Italy
Upon arriving in Chicago, they had no sponsors to help them find a place to live or help them find work. With no sponsor and only a basic grasp of English, and probably running on fear of the authorities, our father found an old abandoned building and moved us into the basement which was full of rats and roaches.

Our father, a tall and lanky built man who was an alcoholic with a short fuse and who fancied himself a ladies man, left early every morning to look for work.
Instead of our father doing anything to end our homeless nightmare, it was a cold winter's day, waiting in a food line with my mother for a few cans of food that brought our nightmare to an end.

While waiting in the food line, there was a very persistent woman dressed in a navy blue uniform and cute matching hat that kept trying to talk to my mother. Our mother would have seemed approachable as she was a very beautiful woman who was always very well groomed and had very unusual eyes. The top half of her left eye was light green and the bottom half was brown. Her right eye was a beautiful light blue.

We had no idea what the persistent woman wanted. She kept trying different languages and at one point looked frustrated and left. Mother looked at me with questioning eyes and I shrugged my shoulders.

 A few minutes later the persistent woman came back with a man dressed in the same kind of uniform. When the man began speaking German, mother's face lit up since she knew how to speak German. Things began happening quickly. They took us out of the food line and went back to the abandoned building with us. Father was there with my brother Peter, who was seven years older than me, and my sister Grace, who was five years older than me.

They helped us pack the little belongings we had and took us to a shelter. Once we arrived at the shelter we were given a tour. The shelter looked like a community center. One of the floors was full of cots. We were shown which cots we would be sleeping on. The other floor was full of long tables and benches and it was where meals were served. There was also an area that had toys and clothes and as we walked by I saw a little girl playing dress up and I was excited thinking about playing dress up too.

Once we settled in by our cots, I got mother's permission to go play. When I got to the play area I was happy to see the other little girl was still there. She started talking to me but I didn't understand what she was saying so I smiled at her. She handed me a pretty yellow dress and yellow pumps. Even though I couldn't understand the other little girl, we had fun pretending being models and walking down an imaginary catwalk.

When the other little girl's mother came to get her we waved to each other and I stayed looking at dresses, trying to decide which dress I wanted to try on next. I didn't even see my mother coming.

Mother grabbed my arm so hard I immediately started crying. She kept telling me to shut up as she pulled the dress off of me and told me to take the nasty whore shoes off. Once I had taken off the yellow pumps she grabbed both of my arms and pulled me close to her and told me only whores wore bright colors and high heeled shoes. She kept asking me if I was a whore. I didn't know what a whore was but it must have been something very bad to make mother upset, so through my tears I kept saying no. She grabbed my hand and took me back to the floor where our cots were.

When she put me to bed I tried to tell her that I was just playing dress up with the other little girl and we were just trying to look pretty. She told me that I would never be pretty and if she ever caught me acting like a whore again I would regret it. I curled up on my cot and softly cried myself to sleep.

Up until my late twenties, I had a recurring nightmare where I would see a soft yellow light shining from my closet. I would search frantically for the source of the yellow light. As I pushed through mounds of clothes and shoes I would see shining beautifully a yellow pair of pumps. As I reached for the yellow pumps, I would be overcome with terror knowing that someone was behind me. I always woke up shaking and sweating.

We stayed at the shelter until they helped our father find a job and helped my parents apply for public assistance. I wish I could say that my mother had been mean because she was upset about the situation we were in, except it was a nightmare that began shortly after I was born.