Coming to the New World

In 1982, I moved to Southeast Wisconsin with my wife and our young daughter. This was the start of my almost 20 years of business travel to various areas of our great country. My most frequent travel was to the New York Metro area. I traveled there at least twice a month, sometimes more often. In the course of my travels I had many interesting experiences. Some were funny. Some were sad and some were poignant. Here is one of them. I call it Coming to the New World.

During a period of unrest in Poland in the 1980s, I encountered several Polish refugees at LaGuardia Airport in New York City. The events surrounding that day and flight were funny, sad and finally uplifting. It was a hot summer day at the week’s end as I trudged into the air-conditioned relief of the Northwestern Airlines terminal. After checking my bag and receiving my boarding pass, I proceeded to the gate or where I thought that the gate was.

LaGuardia was in the midst of refurbishing the departure lounges so we were directed to an auxiliary gate on the lower level. Due to construction on the runway, all of the windows were boarded up. The airconditioning was overloaded because, you guessed it, this was a full flight that was heading to the three Ms: Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis.

As I took a seat and pulled out some reading materials, I noticed a group of three people who looked dazed and confused with what appeared to be their guide. After some back and forth in a language none of us could identify, one of the other passengers asked the guide where his companions were from.

He replied that they were Polish and had fled their country and the day before had been in a transit camp in Austria. They were headed for new lives in North Dakota where their sponsors lived. They looked scared and afraid in a room surrounded by foreigners.

Someone in the back asked where they were going and the guide told us the location. Another man said that he was going there too. The guide asked if he could see that they get to their plane. He agreed. Meanwhile, another businessman asked if they realized how cold it was in North Dakota in the winter. When asked by the guide, he pointed out that it could get to 60 below. They seemed to think that this was celsius until the man dropped the words “fahrenheit” on them like a boulder. They all turned white.

Well, our flight arrived and we all boarded. Soon we were on our way, off to the American Midwest. Sitting on that plan, I thought about what was going through their minds. Twenty-four earlier they were in a transit camp halfway around the world, wondering what the next day would bring. Now they were winging to a new life in a free country. You know, every one of us who deplaned in Milwaukee wished them good luck in their new lives.

But I bet you knew that already. I hope that each of the three found what they were looking for in America.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *