The Law Office of Robert D. Ahlgren and Associates is partnering with Fwd.US to promote and celebrate National Immigrant Heritage Month. During the month of June, we will be featuring profiles of some of our own members’ family immigrant stories.
I come from several generations of immigrants, and so far, I’m the only one in my family to have been born in the United States. All four of my grandparents fled Europe following the Second World War and immigrated to Argentina, where my parents were then born.
During the 1930s and 1940s, Argentina was a booming economy – a land filled with natural resources and plenty of food and work. So like so much of the population in Argentina now, most can easily trace their roots to Europe.
My maternal grandparents came from Austria. My grandfather ran a restaurant with his brother in Gratz, but due to the Nazi regime and the war, their business was seized by the government, and my grandfather was out of work. In search of new opportunities, he took the chance and immigrated to Argentina.
My maternal grandmother also came from Austria. She had a well-paying job as a machine operator/seamstress, and her company sent her to Argentina, where new factories were being built. She was supposed to train the new staff in Buenos Aires and return after a few weeks. But, being the strong-willed and adventurous woman that she was, and despite my family’s displeasure, she never returned. She fell in love with the tango, the food, the wine and the people – and soon met my grandfather, where my mother arrived not too long after.
My paternal grandparents both came from Spain. They did not believe in the Franco Regime in Spain, and upon hearing about all the work and opportunities in Argentina, decided to escape. Rumor has it that my grandfather ate an entire jamón serrano on the boat from Spain to Buenos Aires. Once they settled, my grandmother was surprised that she was finally pregnant and had my father.
My parents met in Buenos Aires, and soon my brother came along. My father had studied engineering and was working for a large German company. The Dirty War and military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s had been of grave concern to my parents. Many people were kidnapped, including graduate students and pregnant women, and were never seen again. My father was “suspicious” as an outspoken graduate student and engaged in many protests against the regime. On one occasion, he was taken by the military and held in jail for days. My grandmother feared he would be killed, and she nearly set fire to the police station. Thankfully for my family, they decided my Spanish grandmother was making too much of a scene, and they let my father go. My parents were afraid to leave their home. Getting out of the country was nearly impossible for many. My father’s company had offered him a short-term job in the United States, which he quickly accepted.
My parents came to the United States with my baby brother and two suitcases. They planned to remain only 3 to 5 years and always hoped to return to Argentina. While they were here, I arrived. We returned to Argentina, but my parents found that the country was not any better, and my mother did not want to live in fear. So, we returned to the United States, and my parents have embraced their new lives. And my family is thankful that each generation has been able to find safety and opportunities in their new homes.
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