Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Freedom's Just Another Word for.." Part 1

     My mother was born in Prague on February 17th 1944. She was one of two children, the other being her sister Elizabeth. Her sister would one day marry and have a daughter named Lenka. When Lenka was about three, my mother and grandma agreed to watch her for the weekend while Elizabeth settled into a new home. Also, the chimney cleaners were scheduled to come. At some point during that weekend, Elizabeth went to sleep and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. She was 23 (I believe). My mother and grandmother were obviously completely distraught. They tried to gain custody of little Lenka, but her father was given custody instead. For one reason or another my mother and grandmother never heard or saw Lenka ever again.

     My father was born in Russia on August 23rd 1937, but moved to the small town of Bad Schussenried, Germany with his family when he was a child. He was one of six children. All of his siblings immigrated to America (I think around the 1960's) except for the oldest, Peter, who was paralyzed at a young age and lived in Germany until his death.   Him and his siblings lived in Colorado initially and then eventually settled in Chicago, IL. I don't know much about my father during this time because he rarely ever speaks the truth about anything, and I haven't talked to anyone on his side of the family for over ten years, so who the fuck  knows? My father lived near Lincoln Ave in Chicago (a predominantly German-American area) and most of his siblings did too. It was here where he married his first wife and also owned his beauty shop in the Kempf Plaza. Next to it was Selmarie Bakery which had some of the most delicious pastries I ever had. This fact is completely unrelated to anything, but I'm in dire need of some positive memories while typing this, so forgive me.

   (this next paragraph is where I need to do some fact checking with my mom in regards to where Franz was from and the citizenship she obtained with him. I'll be sure to edit it as soon as I know for sure)

        My mother's first marriage was to a concert pianist named Franz Schmidt (though she told me, I've since forgotten where they were married). I believe that he was from Austria. She left Prague during Communist rule understanding fully that she could never come back to her country as long as it was still under Communism. From Prague, she went to Austria and that was where they obtained her Czech (at the time, Czechoslovakian) passport and she was issued a new one from Austria. My mom and Franz spent a great deal of time traveling and living in many places in Europe including Munich (Germany), Belgium, and Spain. It was when she divorced Franz (again, I have to get the dates) that she immigrated to America by means of working with the Austrian Consulate with very little more than a suitcase. She spent some time in California and then came to Chicago. She was living in Lake Point Tower (downtown) when someone mentioned to her how predominantly German the Lincoln/Western area on the north side was (though born Czech, she loved all things German and enjoyed living in Germany very much). This peaked her interest greatly and she decided to go there one day in hopes for an authentic meal and maybe even some live music.

    It was there she met my father. In a bar. If you know me at all, you can see how that makes a great deal on sense.

     I know most kids wonder, at one point or the other, what their parents saw in one another. I'm convinced that most of the attraction (at least enough to bring me into the world) was booze-related. If you saw how they got along, you'd understand. My complete disregard for believing in a higher power makes me roll my eyes at then "God's plan" scheisse most people tend to throw at me. This is like the butterfly effect if the result was a series of atomic bombs. The universe went out of it's way to make sure these two people would never cross one another's path, and yet the inevitable happened.

     When they met, my father claimed to be divorced (nope. not the case), and my mother actually was. Pregnancy was the last concern on her mind because her doctor in Germany told her she was unable to reproduce. Shortly after they met, though, my mother learned she was, indeed, sick with baby. It's at this point in the story where I tend to start veering off topic entirely and tend to start yammering on about my childhood. That wasn't the purpose in me writing this tonight, however. I mostly just wanted to give a better explanation for my mother's "alien status" in this country. In a way, it's still me yammering about my childhood because her history has become my history, too. She's been fighting for her freedom since I've been born, thus I've grown up fighting for it too my entire life.When I bring my mother's situation, it's funny how many people suddenly think that they know everything about the topic of immigration. By funny, I mostly mean infuriating. Immigration laws are changing constantly. You almost have to constantly study it to ever really have a good understanding of it, and even then, there are a multitude of different circumstances. The more I learn about it, the more I feel like no two cases are the same. It's frustrating. It's disillusioning, and heartbreaking.

     The bottom line with my mother's case is that she left a country that has since turned into another country who's government has since changed into a whole other type of government. Google "Velvet Revolution" if you don't remember your history teacher ever covering this (imagine that). This alone makes it difficult enough, but also the fact that she no longer has any type of documentation proving she is who she says she is. None. My mother is a ghost on the map.

and it's everything she never wanted.

How did it get to be this way? I'll get more into depth on that one in the second half.


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