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Immigrant Roots- Mary Mifsud

 My name is Mary Mifsud. I was born in September 1920, and came to America from Austria in June 1937 when I was
16 years old.

“I was sent to America on my own to make money for the family.”

My father had been in America for four years prior to my arrival. He came back to Austria to bring my family and me to the States with him. However, my grandmother refused to go; this led my parents to stay in Austria. Instead, I was sent to America on my own to make money for the family.

Once I got to the United States, I lived in Jamaica, Queens and I went to work cooking and cleaning homes. Many of the other workers spoke German so I was able to communicate well with them, and soon I learnt English. I met my husband in New York City; he had emigrated from Malta. Though we spoke different languages, we were both also learning English so we found a way to communicate with one another. It was two years after living in New York that my husband proposed, but he was going off to fight in World War II, so we waited to get married. This is when I got the news that my father and brothers were going to fight in the war as well.

“Though we spoke different languages, we were both also learning English so we found a way to communicate with one another.”

I couldn’t believe that my father, brothers and soon-to-be husband were fighting the same war; each one on the opposing side. My father was in the German army; my brother Willie was forced into Hitler youth, and my husband and my brother Louie were in the American army. I lost my father in the war, this was something I just couldn’t wrap my head around; he was much older when he was forced to fight because Hitler made it so that boys at a young age and the elderly would go fight in the war. He could’ve been around much longer if it weren’t for the war.

“We were still sending money to our families back home.”

When my husband returned from the war, we got married and moved into a small apartment in Manhattan. The shower was in the kitchen and the bathroom was in the hallway and we had to share it with other tenants. We didn’t even have a fridge, we had an ice box. We knew we wanted to move into a bigger home so we decided that we would save $26,000 and move into a family house, before we had kids. Both of us were also still sending money to our families back home. My brothers, except for the youngest, and my sister came over to America; we even brought over my cousin to marry my husband’s brother. Together, we moved into a house in Queens and soon after had kids.

Today, the only families I have are my sister, children and my grandchildren. Leaving your family behind is never easy. It wasn’t always easy but we were able to get through it.

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The New York Immigration Coalition's weekly blog series "Immigrant ROOTS" features the many stories of New Yorkers impacted by immigration adn migration. The project aims to explore the "roots" of individuals that make for so many diverse experiences that are a critical fabric of New York. 

Every week, the NYIC will publish a different story from our "Immigrant ROOTS" series. And this will be ongoing! 

Share your story! If you'd like to share your story and be a part of this project, please contact us at sanwar@nyic.org and tyaku@nyic.org to schedule an interview. 

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