I observed a special anniversary this week: Twenty years ago, I boarded a plane in Frankfurt to my new home in Pittsburgh, a city I had never seen before. The decision to leave Germany was not an easy one, especially since my brother had two small children I adored. I would miss seeing them grow up and would miss family get-togethers and milestones.
But moving to the U.S. also gave my husband and me a chance for a new start. I worked in the office of a small company that was headed for bankruptcy. I sent out almost 90 resumes without any requests for interviews (the unemployment rate in my province was about 18% at the time). My husband could not land an IT job even when companies claimed to speak English at work. We started a home-based portrait business, but couldn’t find any clients after exhausting friends and relatives.
The final straw came when our landlord evicted us – right before Christmas. The idea to move to the U.S. was born, but we did not want to relocate in winter. We moved to my parents’ house for a few months and I continued the visa process that I had begun after our marriage. By early spring, I had completed all necessary requirements and received my visa.
A very stressful time followed. We had to leave behind much of our furniture, all our appliances (my girlfriend still has the dryer I sold her back then!), and decided which items to ship to our destination. My husband left Germany ahead of me so he could open an bank account, buy a car, and get settled in while I continued working, selling more household items (including an aquarium with fish!), and the other car.
The hardest part, of course, was saying good-bye to family and friends. I met with a school friend who immigrated to Australia the same year and I did not see her again until three years ago. My parents, of course, took my emigration very hard. It was a relief when I could board the shuttle to the airport. I would not see them for two years. They were still in good health, though, and were able to visit us in our new home in 1998. It was a trip of a lifetime for them – just like it was for me in 1995.