Part Two -- The New World

Chapter 7 -- Arrival and Adjustment

A social service agency took care of Paul. He was taken to various shops and outfitted with new garments and shoes. He was overwhelmed with the size and sights of the great city. He saw his first American movie in many years in Radio City. It was "The Yearling," supplemented by a live show of dancing and singing. This was life as life should be!

The agency taking caring him suggested that he move to a different part of the country. Paul accepted their suggestion of Philadelphia. He was to be supported until he became self-sufficient. A local family took him in as a paid boarder. Paul gratefully accepted the new routine of normal, middle class life in America. He watched the new entertainment medium -- television. He attended a class for newcomers to learn English. Miss Connors, the teacher, transmitted many of the values of his new environment through apt quotations from literature. Paul was especially inspired by:

"Lives of great men all remind us
That we can make our lives sublime.
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time."

After one semester Paul's English became good enough for his entrance to high school. In spite of the interruptions in his education Paul was able to enter as a senior.

He was a year older than his contemporaries, and had a hard time adjusting socially. Academically he did well. He received good grades in his subjects. He even got transferred in his second semester to the advanced English class. To continue his printing experience Paul took up typing. In those days typing was considered a girl's occupation. He and another boy were in a class with about two dozen girls. This was one of the benefits of being raised by a single mother. He lacked the male chauvinistic attitudes. He did poorly in the physical education classes, and did not participate in the sports at all. However, he was a member of the chess team that won the state high school championship. While many of his class mates received letters for playing football, baseball and other sports, Paul had to be content with one for the game of chess.

Wherever Paul went he received a friendly reception. He noted the lack of religious prejudice, so different from the state-sponsored anti-Semitism of Hungary. But Paul realized the tremendous void of his understanding the American society. He immersed himself in the local public library to supplement his education.

Upon graduation from high school Paul refused a college scholarship, for he was still crippled emotionally by his experiences. He started to work as a printer's helper, to take advantage of the skills learned as an apprentice. Intellectually he was restless. He tried to escape the past by reading science fiction -- the possible new worlds of the future. He also became obsessed by the mystery of the Holocaust. How and why could such horrors occur? Paul began a study of history, hoping to find the key to this great and incomprehensible tragedy.


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