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My American Dream

Scritto da Arianna Trevisan, 2DL il 31 Marzo 2012.

Pagine di diario scritte da un immaginario ragazzo italiano che emigra in America all'inizio del secolo scorso.
30 thSeptember
“Every night I hear rats. I hear them gnawing. It seems like they’re sleeping by my side. I’d like to cover myself, but last week I gave my blanket to a woman and her baby: she smiled and watched me as if I was an angel, and the child said “Thank-you, Mister.” I think they were German.”
Anyway, I can’t sleep, so I decided to write about my journey to the USA. My American Dream.
My name is Alexander Fortini and I was born sixteen years ago in Udine, Italy. My father taught  me English because his brother, my uncle Simon, had moved to the USA when he was twenty. My father used to say: “One day you’ll need it, Alexander, you can never know where life will take you.” And now, my parents and my little sister are dead, and uncle Simon sent me a letter. He told me to go to live with him, because orphans can’t survive on their own.
But I don’t want to talk about what I left in Italy, it still hurts. Every memory from  my past  still hurts me.
My ship left on the 30thAugust, I travelled for a month. I went to Genua with a group of nuns, and one of them gave me a little silver Crucifix. I didn’t have lots of money, even if my family wasn’t poor, but I’m just a boy, and I couldn’t keep all the money. I used all my savings to buy a ticket and they told me I was lucky, because I was going to a better life. But the ticket cost so much! I could not  buy anything else. I hoped it was a ticket to the Paradise.
But the journey started, and I found out where I was.
My ticket was a third-class-ticket. And believe me, it was a nightmare.
There are fifty or sixty people in a room, at the bottom of the boat and men aren’t separated  from women. We slept all together and once or twice a day we ate. Our meal was a brown, disgusting soup and, if we were  lucky, black bread. Sometimes I found some little worms. I was scared and so I never ate. But then I had to surrender myself: I was too hungry, I could have  starved. The boy who was sleeping next to me taught me that if you closed your eyes everything went  better, even the food. So, I closed my eyes and I ate. It was disgusting, but I wanted  to arrive to the USA, alive. When I felt I could not manage , I held on  my Crucifix. And I prayed , I prayed a lot.
“I hope America is as beautiful as people describe it. They always say that people are happy, rich and generous, that cities are enormous and there are no problems, because everyone has got a second choice. Even orphans. I’m looking forward to arrive there. I know when I’m there everything will be alright.”
1st October
I’m freezing, it’s so cold here.
It’s six PM, and I’m writing because I’m hungry, and writing make me forget I’m hungry for a while.
This morning I heard an old Italian man saying that tonight three people had died. That’s not strange, often people get ill and, if they’re very ill, they die. I can’t do anything, and I’m so hungry. I couldn’t see who the deads were, but I heard some girls cry. I just want to arrive in America and forget, forget everything. But I already know I won’t.
I share my bed with a-twenty-year-old Russian  boy. His name is Nikolai and he’s got a violin. I don’t know how he got it, but sometimes he plays it and I sing; so, we don’t think about bad things: sadness, dead, hunger, gnawing rats, fear. We just make music.
Nikolai told me -in Italian, he could manage a bit of Italian- that he was travelling with his sister, Alix. He also told  me that they were very poor in Russia, and they decided to go to find a job in the USA. Nikolai showed me a photo of his sister and him: they’re very similar, but Alix has got blond hair; she is very cute in the photo: she must be beautiful.
Now, Nikolai’s playing, but he looks bad and tired, he’s not the same smiling boy I knew some weeks ago. He says it’s because he hates the sea, but I think he’s ill. I hope I’m making a mistake, I don’t want to lose my only friend here. But Nikolai won’t listen to me. Right now he’s looking at me  : “Come on, Alex. Sing something great  to me  .”
I agree, Nikolai. Let’s teach people how not to have bad thoughts .
04th October
It’s night.
Nikolai died two days ago. I can’t believe it. He was my only friend.
The night before he gave me his soup, and I was so hungry I ate it. Nikolai smiled and said that I was a good friend, and that he was happy to be with me. I was a bit surprised, but he went  to bed before I could ask something. And in the morning he didn’t wake up. I found his violin and the photo under the pillow, and so I knew he felt he was going to die. I still haven’t found his sister. How will I tell it to her?
It’s sad: tomorrow we’ll arrive at Ellis Island and Nikolai will never see it.
Some people threw his body out of the ship while I was still crying. Fear makes man monsters. I’m sorry, Nikolai.
I just want to arrive in America, and I can’t wait: I know I’ll get crazy if I don’t. I just want to see America now. And what ? Rats. They’re still gnawing.
08th October
I think I’m very lucky. The day I arrived here, in America, I saw blue skies and cities, and people, and an enormous Lady who was greeting us all. Alix calls it “Statue of Liberty”. Nikolai's sister, I found her when I arrived at Ellis Island and I recognized her from the photo: yes, Nikolai’s sister is beautiful, as beautiful as a princess, or a dream. I had to tell her about Nikolai when she saw me with his violin. She cried all the day, and even in the night, when she thought I didn’t hear her. I tried to tell something, to make her feel better, but I’m not very good at it. I just held her hand, and then she stopped crying. She watched me, she said “Thanks for being here, Alex. You’re the only one I have now.”  “I decided: I won’t let her go like I did with his brother.
We stayed in Ellis Island until yesterday evening, because the doctors wanted to control our health. But we were alright, so they gave us some dollars and told us: “Welcome to the USA”. Their smiles scared me, I don’t know why.
The German woman I gave my blanket to was with us, and she helped us get to a very little hotel. She said I saved her and her baby, and that she would never forget  what I did. Her name is Magdalena, and the baby’s name is Fryderyk. They are very nice.
But now, I’m tired. Alix is already sleeping, by my side. I sang her Nikolai’s favorite song and she fell asleep a little bit happier. Tomorrow I’ll search for uncle Simon, and Alix will come with me.
11st October
Where are all those happy people?
Where is health?
Yes, I found my uncle, but this will never be my home.
Everyone treated us badly, when Alix and I were alone around the streets. Nobody wanted to help us, nobody. Some people tried to rob us, but I hid the money into Alix’s sock, so we could go away.
But America isn’t as they described it. It’s sad, grey and bad, and there are a lot of poor people. I thought: “Nikolai, maybe you  did the right thing. Your will never know what America is really.”
Uncle Simon took us into his house: he’s quite rich. We’re happy with him, but every time we go out people call us names and I feel so miserable.
What’s the matter?
A man is a man even if he’s from another country: a man has got two arms, two legs, a head and a heart, always.
But people here can’t understand.
I’ll live here, with Alix and my uncle, but America will never be my home.
I decided: I want to change these people. I’ll make them know what a person is like.
Because I’m an immigrant, I’m Italian and I speak a different language, but we’re all part of the same world. It’s just that they still don’t know it.

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