Researching my grandmother’s life has been tumultuous, exciting and strange at different times. The lived experience of organizing before and during the Great Depression as well as the experience of the U.S. left with anti-radicalism since the 1940s are topics I want to learn more about.
One of the things that stood out to me in my grandmother’s story was the deportation attempt against her in 1931. She was picked up off the street for political reasons, her Ukrainian heritage hopefully grounds for deportation. The newspaper headline that covered the arrest, however, conveyed her defiance: “GIRL JOKES AT U.S. ARREST.” She was photographed smiling while walking down the street because she knew she could provide her baptismal record from Pennsylvania which would prove her U.S. birth. After a few days, which included a documented rally in her favor, she was released, again photographed with a big grin.
Deportation attempts, as I came to find out in part because of the book Red Scare,were a reality for thousands upon thousands: “Fifty-six thousand current or former Party members underwent deportation investigations. One thousand were eventually deported, with the majority first stripped of their citizenship,” (p.203). 1,000 deported! Just think of what has been built on that foundation in the years since then in terms of politically and racially charged deportations.