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Living On One Way Street

When language becomes a barrier it is sometimes difficult to overcome. Often we don’t realize as we go through our day to day routines how difficult it must be for someone who has to live in a country and not understand the language fluently. You see these days we have a choice and we can communicate universally through the English language. However during WW II when people had to go into exile like Latvians fleeing their country there was no time to consider which language you knew and which you didn’t. You had to escape and you did.

It was much easier for children, who then entered schools in the new countries and learned the language. It was not so difficult for teenagers, young adults and even those who were already in their middle years. However, a great many of them had their parents along and their parents were getting into their retirement years. For these people, it was extremely difficult to start life anew in a new and strange world.

Many of the Latvian families that settled in New York were glad when Latvian societies started forming. This meant that the elderly in their families could enjoy interacting in their own language at Latvian church services on Sundays and at the various Latvian events that started taking place everywhere in the city. However, there was still the everyday life that had to be faced and when their grandchildren left for school and their children went off to work they were left alone. Many of these people weren’t willing just to sit at home they wanted to take a look around their neighborhoods, visit the stores and just get out of the four walls.

The stories started circulating. One such gentleman a respected grandfather in his home decided to take a walk on a lovely afternoon. Luckily this was in a much gentler time with more understanding people in the world during the 1950s. His children had told him to note his address. However, once he got outside he figured he would just note the street he lived on. Guess what he took note of? The street sign at the end of the block that said, “One Way”. You probably already know what’s coming.

He walked for a while, found a little square to sit in and then slowly made his way home. However, suddenly he realized none of the streets looked very familiar. So he stopped in a store and in his broken English tried to explain his situation. The store owners at that time were well aware of the fact that there were lots of new immigrants around and simply called the police. The police arrived and calmed the elderly gentleman and let him understand that if he could show them where he lived they’d drive him home. He very proudly told them, “I live on One Way Street”. The police faced with this problem sat him in their vehicle and they cruised around until the gentleman recognized his own front stoop. Needless to say after that incident his family made sure he always had a piece of paper with the address on it in his wallet.

  • Question of

    Have you ever gotten lost in a neighborhood?

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  • Question of

    Have any of your grandparents ever gotten lost?

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