From Armenia to America

Based off of a true story

Levon Ohanian 1948

I was born on October 5 1933. This was a bad time in Armenia. The Turks were taking over and executing innocent Armenians and putting us in camps. Luckily my parents got me and my family out before it was too late. I grew up in Syria and when I was 17 my sister, Seda, and I traveled to America. We stayed on a boat for days before we got to America but once there the new challenges and discoveries were worth it.

The arrival

Four months earlier my parents traveled to America to become established before my sister and I joined them. When I arrived I was completely thrown off. People from America were yelling and screaming at all of the immigrants to go home and how we don't belong here. I felt very uncomfortable and when I was getting off the boat an old man hit my things to the ground and made me scramble to pick everything up before things were stolen. We got off the ship in New York and my uncle picked us up. The first thing he did was take us on the subway and I was shocked of the freedom. There were couples showing their affection, which was not allowed where I am from. Then my uncle took us to see the rockets and I was in shock with what they were wearing. Their whole legs were showing and it was embarrassing to me.

The New Setup

Later that day My sister, uncle, and I met up with my parents. I hadn't seen them in a while and it was great to see familiar faces in a place so new. My parents took me and my sister to meet the big guy in charge. He was a man that helped Armenian immigrants get started. He gave both my parents jobs in this little community called "Little Armenia." It was located in lower Manhattan and my mom worked in a coffee shop while my dad worked in a laundromat. They were provided a living space for a small amount of money in an apartment building. It barely fit my whole family but it was better than what I was used to. Although there were a few problems, there was no escape from the higher floors except the main stair and that could be a problem if there was a fire. Also the bathrooms were shared by many tenants and rarely cleaned. If there was a sickness in one person on the same floor as you it seemed to spread amazingly fast.

the job

After my family and I had completely settled in I decided to get a job. The big man helped me out and got me a job in a local factory where I could make friends as well. I was excited at first but I soon realized how horrible the labor was. I worked long hours for little pay and there were a lot of dangers since there was no protection from the machines. After working there for a year some of the older workers and I decided to start a union. We joined together and asked out boss, Mr. Boneville for higher pay and more reasonable hours. He would not give in and therefore we went on strike. It took a month of everyone debating back a forth, giving a little but then taking it back, until we actually reached our goal. By that time so many workers had joined our union that Mr. Boneville had to give in or else his company would suffer. At the end everyone worked eight hour shifts at the most and we made around two dollars and hour which was great pay compared to the ninety cents we made before.