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 »  Home  »  Croatian Life Stories  »  U.S. could take a lesson from Irish and Croatians
U.S. could take a lesson from Irish and Croatians
By Larry Cirignano | Published  03/28/2007 | Croatian Life Stories | Unrated
Writer reflects on her immigrant heritage
U.S. could take a lesson from Irish, Mexican immigration policies

by Barbara Anderson

Was thinking some more about immigration as I celebrated part of my immigrant heritage on St. Patrick's Day.Made lamb stew with turnips, and banana toffee pie for dessert. Listened to the Frank Patterson "Ireland in Song" video that my mother gave me; then watched "The Commitments," which she hated.The movie still makes me laugh out loud, though. And I enjoyed it more this time knowing that, since it was made in 1992, the job market has improved dramatically for the Dublin ghetto and Jimmy is probably no longer on the dole. In fact, many former Irish immigrants to Boston are moving back to Ireland, now that jobs are available there, in search of a better "quality of life." Mother sang "I'll take you home again, Kathleen" -- a beautiful song filled with a longing that probably would not be satisfied. Now we learn, once again perhaps, that things are rarely hopeless. That famine, "the Troubles," and the economic futility of a lovely country, can be part of its history, but not necessarily its future.
I've been surprised to learn recently that it has become difficult for the Irish to immigrate here and become citizens. So many prospective good Americans from various countries, who want to follow the rules, have been discouraged by our bizarre immigration policy: Hassle and reject the honest people, and allow the rules-breakers to sneak in without limit. Well, from what I know, my Irish forebears were welcomed. They had sense enough not to stop in Yankee-dominated Boston, where "Irish need not apply," but kept moving west to work on the railroads. My Grandad Fodge became trainmaster of the Shawmut Line in western Pennsylvania.
He married Barbara, a daughter of German immigrants: "Grosspop," I'm told, had to escape from Prussia after an unfortunate incident I've heard variously described as a "crime of passion" and "murder." Sorry, all you romantics out there, immigration wasn't all about "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses"; sometimes it was about criminals yearning to continue "to breathe free" or indeed, continue to breathe at all. Unlike Grosspop, some followed a criminal life as Americans, too. Western Pennsylvania wasn't an early example of "melting pot." While the Catholic Germans who founded my hometown got along pretty well with the railroad Irish who settled there, the Italians, Poles and Swedes decided to found their own towns a safe number of miles away and apart.Human beings have always been tribal, preferring the small numbers of their "own" to any surge of "the others" coming from anywhere. As our human characteristics evolved, fear of strangers usually made sense from a survival standpoint. And when places became too crowded, tribes resisted newcomers, or moved on. Anyhow, there weren't enough Croatians to make their own town, so my father's family initially settled up in the hills with their farms and their whisky still, watching out for the feds during Prohibition.
The German-Irish ignored that quaint historic episode as well; they kept the local brewery busy, avoiding trouble by not exporting the dark German beer. One might ask, what part of "illegal" didn't the Croatians, Germans and Irish understand? I guess I got my sense of law and order from my Grandpa Horvatin, who when I came along, was a cop -- until he arrested the drunk and disorderly mayor of my hometown.His Croatian wife's name was Barbara, too, so I was named from my family's Slavic/Celtic-Germanic melting pot. Though the Anderson of course is Swedish, from my second husband, my son picked up more Irish ancestors from my first. My twin grandkids, who turn 6 this week, have even more variety in their genes -- all those immigrants, down through the decades of American history, culminating in perfection from this grandmother's point-of-view.
They just returned from a month at their little vacation home in Baja California, a part of Mexico that is attracting American expatriates. While there they bought another piece of land nearby (in partnership, as is the law, with a Mexican bank, so that foreigners do not control the prime real estate.) They would like to live there full time someday. The twins love it, and no wonder -- it's like living in the United States during the '40s and '50s. They go outside to play with the Mexican neighbor kids, running from house to house on dirt roads, learn Spanish (the language of the country they are in) at a one-room schoolhouse, get to ride in the back of a pickup truck, and don't miss television, computers or the worst vulgarities of our present U.S. culture.
Maybe the true American spirit is to do what our forefathers did -- find a better place. Someday it might get too crowded in Baja and in Ireland, anywhere that is attractive to immigrants. I'd note, however, that the Mexicans have more control over their immigration than we do; and I predict the Irish will protect their lovely uncrowded environment before it's too late.Meanwhile, the U.S. government and too many thoughtless Americans are ignoring the impact of unlimited, uncontrolled numbers and seem hell-bent on destroying the country that so many good immigrants built.


Formated for CROWN by Marko Pulji
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  • Comment #1 (Posted by an unknown user)

    Very good.
  • Comment #2 (Posted by Bonnie (Repic) Kelley)

    Very Good article, and so very true in so many aspects! The Croatian part of this story, sounds like my Grandpa Repic. He had a still in the basement of his Ohio/American home. My Grandfather from my Mother's side was Irish/American. From Dublin Ireland I'm told, and he had no still, but as much as he enjoyed his liquor, he should have.
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