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Scout

I had a bit of a Canadian adventure, in 1950. I arrived in America in 1948 as a refugee, with 68 other immigrants, on a 72 foot boat, after a journey of 59 days.

Being illegals, so to speak, we were parked on Ellis Island in New York for nearly three and a half months.


Eventually, we were allowed to enter the country, but as aliens. We were not issued the coveted green card, just a piece of paper allowing us to remain until our case is resolved.


I was a member of the Estonian boy scouts in exile. All of the other scouts were brought here, along with their families, under the Displaced Persons Act, (DP'S), and were issued green cards.


There was a world scout jamboree in Canada, and some thirty of us were going there to take part. Since I did not have a green card, I was given a paper by the Immigration department, attesting to the fact that I had temporary legal status to remain in America, with which I could travel to Canada.


When we got to the border, we were all asked to show our green cards. I showed him my paper, and he said that it was OK to cross the border.


Upon our return, we were again ordered to show our green cards. When I showed them my "document", I was told that I could not enter with that. I explained that I was told that I could cross, and return with that paper. When they contacted that border guard, he denied that he had said that, and I was not allowed to enter.

 

The scoutmaster was in a quandary; he had a busload of scouts to take home, but had to leave me behind. He gave me twenty dollars, and said that he would clear things up when he got back. I walked back to the Canadian side, and they would not allow me to enter. I was in tears, and walked back to the American side, and said that they don't allow me to enter.

 

They put me in a "holding room" while discussing my case. Then I was handed a document, which stated that I was "deported" from the United States. They also took my sheath knife away, declaring that it was a lethal weapon. Once again I walked across the bridge, which, ironically, is named the "Freedom Bridge", to Canada. Picture this, I'm a fat kid in a boy scout uniform, feeling dejected, and crying.


By this time, it was dark. Being hungry, I went to the bus station, and bought something to eat from the cafeteria.


By then, I was very tired, and went to a back corner, curled up on a bench, and went to sleep.


Around ten, or so, I felt a sharp pain in my side. The janitor had poked me in the ribs with his mop, and barked: "Hey buddy, you can't sleep here". I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and walked out. I walked along the foot path for a while, then sat on a bench, and looked across the river to the American side. I could see, and hear cars driving, lights in the apartment buildings. I was lonely, and scared, and cold.


There was a trash bin next to the bench, with a lot of discarded newspapers. I crumpled those up and stuffed them into my shirt and trouser for insulation, then curled up on the bench and went to sleep. I woke when the sun's rays reached me, hurting and stiff from spending the night on the bench. If anyone had wandered by, they probably assumed that I was a bum sacked out for the night. I was certainly bummed out about the situation.


I pulled out the crumpled  newspapers and walked to the bus station for some breakfast, then back to the border crossing. My face was smeared from tears, and I must have been a pitiful sight, blubbering about wanting to go home.


There was a busload of tourists being checked out for their return to the States, and they discussed my situation with the driver. He agreed to vouch for me, and to take me to New York, their destination. I imagine that they gave him some kind of document to allow my entry to the US, (deported from Canada?).


I called my parents, and my father met me at the bus station. Farewell, and good riddance, to Canada.


Bus station cuisine is nothing to fondly reminisce about.

 

Indrek Lepson

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