Something I’ve just noticed about the war-time immigrants, is that they don’t try to preserve their ethnic traditions. It’s almost like leaving their homeland forces them to emotionally shed their heritage in order to better cope with the new American ways. Their children grow up with minimal ethic traditions. And within 2 generations everything is forgotten.
But peace-time immigrants maintain their ethnic traditions, because their departure wasn’t forced; they teach the language to their children, and try to retain their heritage, since the option to go back is still available to them.
My father’s mother is full German. During the war, she served as a nanny-nurse to an American military officers family, where she met my American-born grandfather, whom also worked for that officer. After the war, they married, and he brought her here to live in Pennsylvania. My father doesn’t speak German, nor does he own anything resembling a link to German culture. I asked him why grandma never taught him about his heritage, and he said that the war encouraged Americanization. They didn’t want to be seen as foreigners, so they let everything go, and total assimilated into American culture. I’m not sure if my father has any regrets about it.
My mother is also foreign. She also arrived during a war, and she also didn’t try to teach her children anything cultural. -But she has a significantly younger sibling who did the exact opposite, and did everything necessary to teach my cousins about it. This means that I have several younger cousins that are very in-touch with our ethnic roots. I’m envious. And annoyed that I’m constantly being compared to people who had a more comprehensive upbringing than I did. If the culture was important to my mother, she would have taught us about it. But it wasn’t, and she didn’t, and now I’m just another Americanized adult from a family filled with immigrants, many of whom don’t ever talk about it [just like my father].
I get it. People travel, and we’re all from somewhere else; which is good, the more diverse we are, the better. It’s important to remember that we’re all immigrants, and the everyday American-consumer-culture is only part of who we are. The Earth isn’t very big, and we are more connected to our overseas neighbors than ever before. We should all share in a variety of different cultural interests, so that we remember how things change, and how we changed along with them.
# family, immigrants, WW2, ethnic traditions, diversity, Americanization, Connected earth, assimilation, culture , forgetting heritage, war makes you forget, coming to America.