I’m pretty sure most of you have seen the movie “Titanic” by James Cameron at least once. It’s a very beautiful and tragic love story. Thousands of people hoping to find a better life in the US left Southampton to get to New York. Only some of them succeeded. Many of them disappeared in the cold ocean forever.
At the very end of the movie there is a moment when the saved passengers admire the view of the Statue of Liberty in the rain. This scene is really powerful. It shows the power of the most recognisable symbol of hope and liberty the world has ever had.
One day Marta and I went to visit the famous Liberty Island and the Ellis Island, where the museum of emigrants and emigration is located. Let me tell you our story.
Of course, it is impossible to get there on foot, so a few days earlier we booked the tickets for the ship. The trip takes about 20 minutes.
Firstly, we arrived at Liberty Island, where we took audio guides providing historical facts about the statue. Did you guys know that the green colour of the figure wasn’t designed by its builders? It was to be brown-orange because the monument is made from copper. Unfortunately (or not) the corrosion changed the colour into bright green. The conservators were about to renovate the building but then New Yorkers protested. They found the bright colour more attractive and that’s why the statue looks the same till today.
We took hundreds of pictures there. Believe me that standing in front of this huge monument makes the observer feel very tiny and unimportant. It reminds you that you are just one human being among billions of others in this enormous world. Certainly, it’s an unforgettable experience you want to keep in your mind forever.
Liberty Island is probably more famous than Ellis Island. Most European tourists don’t even know about the other island. I had never heard of it, either. The truth is that Ellis Island is the main attraction. The trip to the museum was actually the reconstruction of the arrival of emigrants. I had an impression of travelling in the time machine. In the hall we could feel the emotions of millions of emigrants who went through this place. We could feel their pain, fear, determination, hope but also happiness and excitement.
The guide gave us roles to play. Someone became a clerk, someone else, a guard. The guide gave a hat and a doll to my friend Marta and told her: “From now on, you are going to be the 6 year old daughter of emigrants. Here are your brother and your parents”. Marta played her role well. We could also see how the medical control and the personal interview looked like. Lives of large numbers of people were changed in those rooms. Numerous emigrants were sent back to Europe. Sometimes they had to leave because of dangerous diseases they brought, sometimes because clerks didn’t want to accept their reasons for coming to America. Imagine the situation when an Italian family sends a boy about 8 years old alone to the USA. The child is exhausted and he can’t speak English of course. The family wanted to offer him a better life by sending the boy to the USA. However, in clerks’ opinion it was better for him to come back home, so they sent him back. After weeks of a very exhausting journey and only a few days in New York, the young Italian was sent back home. This is a true story, only one among thousands. Was this decision justifiable or not? And what would you decide? If you want to know more, you shoud visit the museum on your own.
This day was really emotional. If you ever have an opportunity to visit these places just go. Don’t hesitate.