Do I have a story for you! In August of 1919 my father, Jack Azose, ran away from home in Istanbul, Turkey, taking two changes of underwear and a few liras his mother had been saving for rent. His brother, Nissim, had immigrated to Seattle several years before, and 18-year-old Jack was eager to follow.
With no passport or identification, he went down to the Istanbul harbor looking for a ship he might slip on to unnoticed. He had learned French while in school, and found a Russian ship taking French soldiers and some civilians to Marseilles. He strode up the gangplank and raised his arm in a salute, giving a nonchalant “Ça va?” (How’s it going?) as he continued on to the ship.
Once aboard, he borrowed a French uniform to wear and enough money for a one-way train ticket to Paris. When the ship arrived in Marseilles, he changed back into his civilian clothes and shimmied down a rope tying the ship to the dock. As luck would have it, he found work at a restaurant in the Jewish quarter owned by a Sephardic Jew.
He soon realized it would take years to save enough for the voyage to America. He wrote to Nissim and begged for a loan, promising to learn English and get a job to pay him back as soon as he arrived. Nissim agreed.
Now what? He was in the country illegally, with no identification or passport, and needed documentation to get to Seattle. He decided to turn himself in, and the French authorities considered throwing him in jail but decided to kick him out of the country instead, providing him with a temporary foreigner’s passport and a ticket for the ship Adriatic on the White Star Line.
On February 20th, two French detectives personally escorted Jack to the docks. As the ship pulled out of port around midnight, he said to himself, “I’m not dreaming, I’m really going to America.” What a thrill just to say the word.