Letter to Manya [Aron’s Aunt in Odessa] from Aron
No envelope extant [This is possibly a draft of a letter that may or may not have been sent from the U.S. to Russia]
I don’t dare to let anybody else but you into a secret about my real condition. Since you lived in America, you will understand me.
This word “America” is loud, actually too loud to shock the ear. While living in Russia, America seems like a paradise, in which any average man can find peace for his soul and can make his living well. As they call it in America machen a Leben
Within a short period of time I was able to discern the astounding conditions of a Jewish immigrant, i.e. of the pure working class in America.
As long as I will lie, as long as I will remember myelf, I will curse that hour when I decided to leave for America. Please do not forget, Manya, that the financial circumstances did not make me leave for America. In truth, I had a very difficult work in Kishinev; but what gave me a push was a fear of the military service obligation, and “the promised wonders” promised by my sister, who now lives in this miserable America, in this free land of drudgery…
…I earned 60 rubles a month. I also have received more than 500 rubles of severance in cash, and I could have lived that way for a while, but I wanted to seek adventures, and I found them here. Aside from having the shipscard from my sister, I already spent 300 rubles of my money. You must know that the Russian ruble abroad is ½ worth of its value. En route, the money is important like nothing else. If you want to buy something or to exchange Russian rubles into foreign money, they give you ½ of it, and you pay twice as much. That is why I have less Russian money now.
There is an unprecedented stagnation in labor here in America now. I won’t find any job any time soon. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers wander idly to and from…looking for a daily bread. Here they call me a greener, which means: I don’t know the language, I don’t know the city and people, and there is no job for me here. It seems like I turned myself into a child again. I need to learn how to speak, how to walk, how to do things and how to treat people, and most importantly how to make ends meet. My condition is very critical now, and I don’t know what…
…they give you only half of the money, and this money is as important as the snow during the spring time. Strange as it may seem to you, Manya: If I had an opportunity to return to Russia, I would be happy to do so. The works here are incredibly hard. Any worker here looks like a convict who has served 30 years of a hard labor in exile. Their faces are pale; they look dead-tired. They eat only artificial food here. For example: they bake bread using electricity; all milk is imitation milk, same with all diary products. I cannot live the life like that any longer.
Only those who have no opportunity to return to Russia, live here in America.
I an very well aware of the conditions of the Jewish working person in Russia, but those conditions are by far easier and better in Russia than in America.
Indeed, this is a country of the “Yellow Evil.”
I am asking you, dear Manya, to answer without delay, because I have to wait for your letter for six weeks. It’s not so easy to wait for six weeks. I am asking you to write to me when you are free, since you are the only one who can write a letter like this to me.
…what’s in the wind in Kishinev? Is it true that the official mobilization has been declared already? There are rumors here that the Manifesto of 1905 has been restored, and it is much broader. Is it true?
I have a dream to save some money for my trip back home to Russia. I want to go directly to Odessa. I think that I will be the happiest person when I come back to Odessa and find a job over there.
If you can, would you please send me 2-3 newspapers “Od. Nov.” [possibly “Odesskie Novosti” or “News from Odessa” – S.A.] I haven’t read Russian newspapers for a long time. My sister’s promises as well as my hopes are far away from realizing.
In conclusion: I have hopeless desperate living conditions. My sister is quite well off here, she has a nice apartment, beautiful furniture, a few hundred dollars in her bank account. This, however, doesn’t give out any warmth to me. She won’t give me any money for my trip back.
The Americans are egoistic, selfish people, who have nasty characters and who love themselves only.