Rail Kids: An immigrant's story

Feb 22, 2011

On June 29, 1930, aboard a passenger ship that had sailed from France toward New York City, was a attractive newlywed, an Albanian lady, Kaliope, with her new husband, a 45 year-old widower, Spero Economy, who was bringing his new bride to America.

This is a story like many other immigrants had about coming to America, the land of freedom and opportunity. And this is how Kaliope felt about her new life. At age 22, Kaliope had lost her first husband and first love, Christo Demetri, after less of a year of marriage, when Christo caught diphtheria and died in 1922. Kaliope was eight months pregnant at the time of his death, and a son, Christy, was born one month later.

A widow at 22 was not much of a life for a young woman. Albanian society and custom treated young ladies as a social outcasts who had to wear black clothing for an indefinite mourning period and were left out of social gatherings outside of her family. But, Kaliope whose life was mainly helping her family, taking care of her new son, and with her seamstress education, managed to keep busy, hoping someday her life would have a new beginning.

In early June, a knock came on her family door, and in came with her cousin a short Albanian American man who was visiting Albania. He, too, was a widower, looking for a new bride to go with him to America and take care of his three children in Rockland.

Kaliope knew from the minute she saw this portly older man with a twinkle in his eyes that this was going to be her escape to America and a new life, even though she realized this marriage was for convenience rather than love.

After a two-week courtship with Spero, she came to the conclusion that being married to him — he was 45, and she was 27 — would be better than living a lonely life in Albania.

When he proposed, Kaliope said it took her less than a minute to say yes, to his surprise. Spero was right up front with her about what she was getting into as a new mom with three children: a boy, Richard, 17, just 10 years younger than her; James, age eight; and a girl, Margaret, age five. But again, Spero promised to help with his new family and Kaliope said he was always kind, gentle, and soft spoken. And she said it certainly was going to be challenging, inheriting a new family and husband.

Again, anything to escape to America, where she had relatives and friends. The only drawback about this new marriage was that her son Christy, at age five, could not come to America with her due to strict immigration laws. She would have to wait five years before Christy could come and live with her. It was the most difficult decision, she said, to leave Christy home with her parents, one that haunted her entire life.

After a three-week honeymoon with visits to Athens, Rome,and Paris, Spero and Kaliope got to know each other, and Kaliope said how nice it was to have a man who seemed to care about her. After all Kaliope was a good looking, intelligent lady, who any man would desire.

When the ship they were crossing the Atlantic Ocean on was approaching New York, the captain announced it would be around 4 a.m. when it was going to enter New York Harbor. To see the Statue of Liberty you would have to get up early for the viewing, Kaliope said. It was one of her most memorable moments to see this great big stature of a lady holding a torch saying "Welcome to America."

After passing through customs at Ellis Island, Spero and Kaliope spent a day visiting New York city with a trip to the Empire State Building. Kaliope said she was so amazed at the tall buildings of New York, she got a sore neck by looking up as they were walking the streets. They boarded a train in New York on their way to Portland. Each had a window seat,and Spero was always pointing out points of interest on the way towards their new home and family at 9 Prescott Street in Rockland.

 

 

Terry Economy was born in Rockland and graduated from Rockland High School. He has had a long career in broadcasting. He can be reached at teconomy@roadrunner.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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