From Poland to Pullman:  One Mans Journey

John Dyrek Sr. Stands in front of his house across from the Pullman factory

By Lorri Timbs
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Passage on a steam ship was booked to Ellis Island for about thirty dollars. 

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Illustration: Fig 3: 

John Dyrek, son of Jacob, in front of his Pullman house across from the Pullman factory.  1938. 

Photo Provided by Mildred Dyrek

Passage on a steam ship was booked to Ellis Island for about thirty dollars. 

A pre-boarding medical exam and de-lousing session were performed by employees of the shipping line.  The ship line could be fined up to one thousand dollars for any unhealthy, unacceptable immigrant brought to Ellis Island, and then forced to provide free passage back to the port of origin for those not permitted into America.  Also, the threat of disease spreading rampant on board ship caused many travelers to be refused access onto the ships.  (Severn). 

Their journeys must end in the Gdansk port, after the medical examiners denied them passage and sent them home.  For those like Jacob who were approved for travel, a trip which would last from 8 to 14 days began as they were loaded into the steerage area like baggage.  And despite the pre-screening in port, disease ran rampant among this human cargo. (Journey to America).  Many died, and others were so ill before the voyage's end that they were detained on Ellis Island. Sanitation was primitive on board ship, and the overcrowding of passengers was inhuman.  The smell of vomit and human body odor could only be escaped by crowding onto the deck of the ship for fresh air.  (America: The Huddled Masses).  One of the many things that Jacob Dyrek had in common with the other immigrants was a dream for a better life in America.  This hope alone made the journey bearable.


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