The sun rises early in the northern latitudes, and when it does the sunlight will flood the rooms in the upper parts of houses first. Up under the eaves in her Uncle Tobias’ home, the light moved across her body.
Her toes, first to feel the warmth of the early sun, wiggled a bit, and the sunlight moved up her torso. Due to the warmth of the first day of summer, and because all the heat in the house moved up, naturally, the usual morning temperature in the upper levels of homes in that small village, about 10 kilometers from Oslo, was about 80 degrees, unless there had been rain during the night. At first, when she had moved there, two years ago, she had worn her nightgown, but, in the heat, without covers, it proved to be too much. Soon enough, she had found that sleeping as nature had intended, with nothing but a light glistening of sweat, was the only way to get a good rest. At the start of the night, sometimes, after cooking, and the heat of the day, it was up to 90 degrees, or more upstairs. The two windows, one at the east, and one at the west, if they were open, often proved attractive to bats, and other nocturnal creatures, so they had to remain closed.
This morning, like so many others, found her, on her 18th birthday, curled into a fetal position, with the pillow half under her head, and half with her arms cuddled around it. She had stopped having the nightmares, the nightmares that had started with the Spanish flu of two years ago, when half the village had perished. The young men were hardest hit. Responsible for the animals, they had pushed themselves to handle the chores when they were hit with the flu, and the additional stress from the heavy work, and the cold of the Norwegian winter and combined with the virus to kill far more of the boys/men in the 13 to 30 age brackets.
In her village area, of the 58 males in this age, a full 44 had died. There were no men here, or anywhere around close by of marriageable age that weren’t already either married, betrothed, or, in the case of a couple, a little feeble in the head. Ok for the heavy farm work, they weren’t what made a woman wish to carry their children, for, who wants to mother the village idiot.
Karen had come down with the flu, along with her younger sister, Marthine her older brother, Alf, then her mother, Emma and father Joakim. She watched with horror, as in a matter of days, first her sister, then her brother, and then with horror both parents suffer the ravages of the illness, then grow quiet after the racking coughs subsided. Luckily, the village elders had met, before half of them died, and had the survivors, who were now immune, gather the dead, and after a blessing, dispose of the dead. Due to the deep frost in the ground, burial, dug by the few with any strength was not possible. Viking style cremations were held, the bodies kept in the cold for a few weeks in one of the barns without animals, the only way to store the dead inside, so the wild animals were keep from feeding. Every fortnight, for it took that long to forage enough fallen wood in the forest, gather and transport to the village, the wood and the bodies of the fallen were interspersed, and at nightfall the survivors gathered to pray for the deceased, the religious elders would bless, and the fire was lit. Through the night, tended by the strongest of the survivors, and fed more wood, the flames did their work, until the virus, and the dead were just memories and ashes. Talk was of a memorial in granite, sometime in the future, but, for now, it was just talk.
Karin had been welcomed into her mother’s sister’s home after the deaths. Besides the two adults, Aunt Inger, and Uncle Peder, there was her cousin, Balder, a 16 year old boy, and his sister, Inga, 19 years of age, and a stunning blond. Karin was treated like a member of the family, and her schooling continued after the schools reopened. The farm of her mother and father was a valuable property, even with the decreased population. The people who were interested in farm property knew that there was competition for such good flat land in a country knows for fiords and mountains, and Karin’s uncle had helped her dispose of the farm. After bills, there was left the equal of 10 years pay for a skilled man, which the uncle had directed the bank in Oslo to deposit in very safe investments.
The winter of death, 1918, was followed by a warm spring. Karin’s new family was quick to welcome her as one of their own. Besides her own strong back and hands, Karin’s trousseau included all of the canned goods she and her mother and sister had put up the previous fall. The larder had been full for a winter with the food expected for essentially 4 adults, and an adolescent girl, and that larder, of course, came with Karin.
She had had her beloved brother and sister, and like siblings throughout time, there were times of immense love, and compassion, mixed with times where she could have murdered either, or both of them. As she aged however, she was more tolerant of her siblings, and had grown to love them, in spite of their failings, occasionally, because sometimes, they tried to act like civilized human beings. As such, after the flu, she was aware even more so, that she must love those around her, and seek to make them happy, as well as herself, for there had been so much pain already.
Uncle Peder had built a sauna in the back of the yard, away from the barn and out buildings, near enough to the house so you wouldn’t get lost, but out of earshot of the house, and out of smelling distance from the barn. The prevailing winds kept the barnyard odors moving away from the house and the sauna. This sauna was a Norwegian style, with lots of heat and steam, while his neighbors, the Tajiks, Margit and Erik, both survivors, in their early 30’s, had built a Finnish style sauna, favoring a dry heat. Of course, in reality, all the difference was throwing some spring water on the hot rocks, above the coals, but, by maintaining the difference, the two men were easily able to persuade their wives to visit the neighbors for a different type of sauna.
After the children had bedded down for the night, or, sometimes even before, the two couples would meet for a sauna, the four would disrobe completely, for there is no room in a sauna for modesty. The fire, lite for a while had brought the heat up, and dry, or wet, the occupants would soon start to perspire, heavy sweat for the men, glistening for the women. Sometimes the children would join, for sauna was a family event, at first, towels were used, but after a while, the extra laundry of the towels for everybody was a burden, and the youngest questioned why they needed all the towels, because she had to wash them all and dry them. Soon after, nature was the order of the day. The sauna was great for relaxing the muscles, and the children learned the art of massage from watching their mothers massage the backs, chests, and legs of their men. The massages after bedtime for the children, were someone more intense, and reciprocity was the order of the day, the women receiving the massage from the men, and not necessarily from their own husband. The soon to be adult Karin was introduced to the sauna a few years before the flu, and she had seen her mother and father disappear into the little house with the chimney with her aunt and uncle, and sometime with the neighbors. With six adults, there really wasn’t a need for a fire to make it hot and sweaty in such a small place.
Sometimes, the older people got a little frisky when the children were present. Among themselves, the kids let it be known that it was fun to relax with your eyes almost closed, and with regular breathing so as to appear as though the child had fallen asleep in the sauna with the older people . When the parents thought that there were no peeking eyes that were awake, they felt that they were free to explore and renew acquaintances. Thus was sex education in the early 20th century in Norway, and for that matter, most other locations around the world.
Karin had witnessed this many times when she was growing up, and she had been considered an adult since her 16th birthday, and free to watch and join. She had been there when her parents and the neighbors had played together, but just as a witness, and there had been times when her cousins had invited her to the sauna. One day, Uncle Peder and Erik the neighbor had invited Karin to a sauna, with just the three of them, and there was much to recommend the activities of the event.
Today, on her 18th birthday, today, June 21, 1920, was the start of the rest of Karin’s life. Recognizing that there was nothing there in the village for her, no job, no man, no real future, she had asked the village elders, much fewer in number now, for advice on the rest of her life. The women, old at age 50, told her to take her fortune anywhere but at the village. One suggested going to America. She had a son who had gone to Madison, Wisconsin, in the middle part of America. His letters told of a good life, weather not as bad as that of Norway, with good crops, good people, and a good future for those who were willing to work. He was a man of metal, starting as a blacksmith, and becoming an expert in the art of fabricating things from iron, steel, copper, bronze, and brass. He had success, and had a modern new house, with running water, a furnace, a gas stove, and plumbing that was inside the house, imagine that!
Karin asked the woman to write the man, her son in America, especially after his mother told her that the man had lost his wife to the flu two years earlier. Karin suggested to the mother that the mother tell the man that there was a girl, in the village, also one who had suffered grievous loss in the epidemic, who was well educated in the art of keeping a house for a man, knowledgeable in canning, cooking, cleaning, watching little ones, and as a plus, easy on the eyes. Karin smiled at that. The farm life kept her stomach flat, her arms and legs shapely and strong. She was a tall girl, about 5 foot, 6 inches, barely 125 pounds. Her mother and father had given her beauty in the face, blue eyes like the fiord, blond hair half way down her back, the color of a hay meadow in the fall. The midwives in the village had told her that she had good child bearing hips, and that her breasts, full sized like her mothers, would be good for feeding the hungry mouths of her children, and would be noticed by the men in her life. Not all of this was in the letter she wrote to her son, the letter that Karin watched her write. After Karin had left the house of the mother of the rich man in America, the mother took out another piece of paper and another envelope and wrote the next letter to her son.
In this letter of recommendation, she compared Karin to the Norwegian woman lost by her son in the epidemic. The beautiful hair, almost to her waist, the eyes that were pools that a man could become lost in, the face of an angel, and the figure, the figure that men would fight over. The Vikings had valued their women highly, and bred the more beautiful ones over and over, so their offspring were highly desired by men around the world. She wrote, “This woman, this woman I am sending you, it a god send to a man who has known the best. Remember your late wife, but remember, that she would not have condemned you to a life of loneliness. This woman, she is a woman that your late wife would have loved as a sister. She is kind, gentle, quiet when she needs to be quiet, and, if it was she that I heard from the sauna of Erik, a woman of needs, and appreciations.
Karin is coming to you as a servant girl, as a maid to a bachelor. She is shy, and a lady. I don’t think that it will be long before she loves you as a husband. Be gentle with her, let her take the lead, and offer her kindness, a shoulder to cry on as the two of you grieve and share your losses. I could not find a better woman for you, son, if I searched the entire country. I look forward to your letters and pray for your happiness.”
These two letters, picked up by the Postman on his rounds through the village, had been received by the man in Madison, Wisconsin. Knowing his mother, and that she would be looking out for him in the best way, the Swede wrote back saying she would be welcome in his home for as long as she wished to stay with him as his maid. Thus, a great journey was started. He had sent money enough for a passage on the Red Star Liners that passed between the continents of Europe and America on almost a daily schedule.
In Norway. Mama had shown Karen a picture of the man, sent with a lot of money. Karen was pleased. A Kodak picture of the man, in front of a huge new house, showed a tall man, square jawed, with the arms of a blacksmith, a smile that she found to make her melt, and a strong countenance that would make a woman think of a protector, and a provider. The mother of the Swede, god, she hated that nickname he had chosen, was herself a descendent of the Vikings, and in the family it was still understood that the Vikings, not that damn Italian guy, had found the new world. It belonged to Norway, but, as with many things it seemed, the guy with the hookup to the rich and famous seemed to get the attention. Hmmmmm.
And so, on this day, a warm and sunny day in June, June 21, 1920, the great adventure began. Her uncle, and the neighbor took her by horse and carriage to Oslo where she boarded a huge ship, bigger than anything she had ever seen before. Its smoke stacks, three in number, had black smoke coming out in good amounts, which her uncle told her meant that the ship was soon to leave. After kissing both men goodbye, and not kisses from a little girl to an uncle, but the kisses of lovers who would be separated, perhaps for the rest of their lives. The neighbor would never forget that kiss, either. Damn, that little girl had kisses like a woman who had a long history of kissing and pleasing.
Once aboard, she was shown a cabin by a steward. In the small room, there were six bunks, three high, on each side of the room. Under the lowest there was room to store the valise she had brought, as well as the belongings of the other two girls who would bunk in that stack, and the bed as soft as a cloud to someone who had grown up with a mattress of straw, with a pillow of feathers. Three of her roommates were already there. A young mother, with a girl of perhaps three or four was in the lowest bunk on the left side of the room. On the other, the top was taken by a shorter girl, perhaps 16, with black hair, and black eyes. She was laying on her back, wearing a skirt and a blouse, and it was apparent that she was a girl of some shapeliness. She rolled on her side and said hi, I am Jenny. I am 18, and I am traveling to America to live with my uncle and aunt in Chicago, and they will pay for me to go to the University of Chicago. The mother was silent, and watched Karen get settled in. Karen chose the lower bunk, on the side that Jenny was on. Karen exchanged pleasantries with Jenny. The other woman, on the top bunk above the mother was face down, and there was a smell of gin about her. Jenny said.
“She was drunk when she came aboard, she made a pass at the steward, and made a big show of wanting to be on the top. She barely made it there. I used to have a father who was drunk, and my mother told me to roll drunks on their stomachs so if they got sick they wouldn’t choke and die, so she, (motioning to the young mother) and I rolled her onto her front. I don’t know what her name is.”
At this, the young mother looked at Karin and said,
“I am Inga, this child and I are all that are left in my village after the flu. I tried to make a living in Oslo, but, there were no jobs for a mother without a man. I was the only survivor in my village, and I had to take care of the dead, so I gathered all their gold, silver, and money when I left for Oslo. I don’t know for sure who the parents of the baby are, but I know, they are dead, because I buried all of my village in a mine shaft in the mountain where they used to get iron ore. When they were all gone, but us, I took the dynamite that they used for blasting, and did what my father, the blaster showed me how to do. I closed the mine with a blast that changed the outside of the mountain, and good riddance to that place.”
This was more words than Inga had said in one time since before the flu. She had had no one left in her family, or in the village, and she didn’t know where she was going in America. What the others didn’t know, was that in her valise, there was enough British Pounds Sterling to buy a small hotel in a modest town. There had been gold and silver from the village, but that had amounted to over 100 pounds of coins. A man she met in Oslo, who had provided her shelter and food for both her and the girl child, in exchange for not much more than a wife would have provided, had been a banker, and had told her that the only way to travel was with British Pounds Sterling. Quietly, going to banks in Oslo that were not the bank he worked at, she had converted the coins to paper money.
After she had missed two monthlies, she had told the man about that, and he had kicked her out. The next one showed up in a couple of weeks, but by then she had decided to go to America. Thus, she and little Kari were in the cabin with the other wayfarers who were escaping the past, with a sunny future ahead of them.
A few minutes later, the steward opened the door, and escorted the last two women for that bunk room in.
Smiling at the room, now full, he said.
“We will depart in about a half hour, at 4:30. Dinner, for this room each night is prompt at 7 pm. If you miss it, the next meal will be breakfast, served for this room at 7 am. Your lunch is the second lunch, at 1 pm. There are clocks in all the passages, directly by the stairs between decks. That is the time you will use to determine when to eat. There is a tavern for you steerage class customers, which is located directly under the dining hall. There are maps in each hall showing where you are, and you should be able to find your way from them. Your space is forward of the bridge, under no circumstances are you go behind the areas with the signs saying ‘Steerage not allowed past this point.’ If you can’t read, you will spend the rest of the journey in lockup.” Enjoy your trip, thank you for sailing with the Red Star Lines.
The two young women he had escorted in looked at the two remaining bunks in the middle of each stack, and looking at each other moved to through their carpet bags, identical to each other, on their respective bunks. Amy looked at Amber, and addressed the crowd.
“I’m Amy, this is Amber, and we are identical twins. We are from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and we are returning home from visiting our grandparents in Oslo, the Andersons, perhaps you have heard of them.”
Looking at the four heads shaking no, the two girls looked at each other and shrugged their identical shoulders. Upon close inspection, everything about the two was the same. Same dresses, same haircut, same smiles, eyes, and figures. If they were standing in front of a piece of glass, you might have suspected that it was a mirror.
Pleasantries were exchanged all around, again, except for the drunk in the top bunk. At the proper time, checked by the clock out in the hall, the five young adults, and the child left for dinner. The drunk, still face down, breathing regularly.
Dinner was fresh chicken, fried in the American southern style. This was possible because they were tied up at the dock when the cooking was going on. A pitching ship was no place for frying in large pots of grease, but, at the time the dinner was served, the dry steam heat from the warming closets made for a tasty meal. All the girls ate hearty, for, they were of Viking stock, even the twins from Minnesota, and the pitching of a boat was not foreign to them.
The dinner was finished, and forty minutes after they had started, they were escorted out of the dining hall, for in another twenty minutes, the next feeding would start. The intervening 20 minutes was for cleaning the tables, new linens, silver wear, and crockery. The dining room staff were efficient, most had had this job, or one on another line since they were barely out of childhood.
The women went back to their room, stateroom wasn’t really appropriate, because that title would have suggested amenities, such as chairs, tables, perhaps a dresser. There was only a desk, with no drawers, and a chair bolted to the floor, at the end of the room opposite from the door. The chair did rotate, and the first woman in the door found the drunk siting in it, facing the door. Holding her head in her hand, facing the floor, she looked like death warmed over, but not too much.
Amber asked, “If you get that drunk and sick, why do you drink so much?”
The reply, with a soft voice, in an eastern accent, was telling. “I don’t drink, I was drugged. They wanted to keep me silent, but after I felt the needle stick, I ran, I ran because I needed to get to a place with people quickly before they could capture and hold me. The ship I had a ticket on doesn’t leave until the day after tomorrow, so I paid the steward handsomely to get me on this ship. I am safe now, but I feel like a Cossack on the day after payday.”
Karin asked “Russian, are you Russian”
Her reply was telling. “White Russian, used to be with the tsars household, have been on the run since the revolution. Do you know what a White Russian is? Nothing special, just a Russian who is not a red communist.” The Reds are after me because they think I know something about the Tsar’s family, but, what would it matter, the bastards killed all of them, right down to the youngest.
The drug was wearing off. Karin had grabbed some fruit and some bread from the table, along with a fried chicken breast. Nadia, the Russian, looked at the meal like a Russian wolf on the Siberian steppes would look at a sleigh full of rich fat tsarists. She asked
“Is that for me?”
A nod yes was sufficient. While eating, she continued her story.
“I have been on the run since the slaughter of the Tsar and his family. I have disguised myself as a peasant, a nun, a whore, and a revolutionary. Believe me, the easiest disguise is that of a whore, nobody cares, except for that which a few coins buys. They don’t want to know your history, your past, which side you favor, your age, how many children you have, nothing. ‘Here’s a few coins, girl, on your back.’”
The chicken was the first she had tasted cooked that way with spices used as if it was served in the finest restaurant in Atlanta. The bread was a good quality bread, with no sticks or rocks, or sand from the grinding wheel. The fruit was fresh, not starting to rot, or with animal bites already in place. To Nadia, this was a feast. There had been some half-weeks when she had not had this much to eat. The food helped her to come out of the drugs. The water, fresh, with no bugs, dirt, or leaves, was sweet to her palate. She continued with her story.
“After the slaughter, I made my way to the west. The Americans, and the British had sent some troops, but, true to politics, they were kept from being efficient or effective. It took some time, walking, mostly, but sometimes catching a ride with the supply trucks, huge things with solid tires, they called them Macks. The Americans and British were for the most part gentlemen, and those who weren’t, were trainable, or they died. Mostly, I found if I started the conversation, a negotiation was easy to make, and I got transportation, food, water, and protection for nothing more than any other man I would have travelled with would have wanted. I made my way to the border, crossed in the night, and it took a year to make it to Oslo, In Oslo, there were some men, the damn Bolsheviks, on the look for Russians, White Russian, Red Russians, didn’t matter, they weren’t supposed to be in Oslo, so these men would find them, follow them, drug and capture them, and nobody would see them again. We found a couple of them, the other Whites and I, and cut their throats while they slept, they thought with whores. The money we stole from them bought passage for three of us, but, the other two were caught in a café, and were shot in the back of the head by the Bolsheviks. I was in the bathroom, and when I heard the shots, saw what happened, and quietly left by the back door, with a bag of table linens. They ran past me as they made their escape, and I made my way with the bag back to the little room way up high in a rooming house. We had our own money, and I took all of it, and on the way down the steps, the two shooters were on the way up. I brushed past, and the last turned and said something. I ignored him, and he stepped in front of the other’s gun and took the bullet intended for me. The shooter swore are me, and tripped over the dead guy and fell. His revolver bounced on the step, and hit me in the back, I picked it up and shot the bastard in the head. Down the stairs, out the door, I ran, I found another Bolshevik outside, waiting, and he stuck me with a needle when I ran out the door with my bag. I turned, and shot him in the face. I hope I killed him. I ran for the ship, and two more came around the corner. Guns drawn, they didn’t recognize that a woman with a laundry bag and a valise was a danger, and I shot them both in their balls. With only one bullet left, as I approached the boat, I faked a sneeze, and dropped the gun over the dock into the water. I made it up the gangplank, and bribed the steward, and here I am.”
With that, she went to her bunk. Having admitted to four murders in the 30 minutes before she boarded the boat, all 5, with wide eyes, looked at Karin who made a sign with her finger across her lips, like a zipper. Silence would be good for all.
The mother went to her bunk, and lay down, with the child between her and the wall of the cabin, looking over her shoulder, she smiled at the four, and turned her head back to cradle the child, as if it was her own.
Like a pack of she-wolves on the prowl, Karin, Nadia, Amber, and Amy and the petite Jenny left the room, looking for the tavern. Soon enough, the noise and the smell of tobacco smoke beckoned. They arrived, some with a few coins, others with funds they did not want to spend.
Finding the tavern, was easy, getting in could be another. In first and second class, the men and the women were separated when they drank, even man and wife, unless they were in their stateroom. Here, in steerage, the women were encouraged to not enter the male territory of the tavern. However, the two crewmen who were supposed to watch the door were otherwise occupied with two Irishmen who had booked from Oslo to Liverpool, and who had discovered that the strong Norwegian beer was quick to go to their heads. Getting somewhat obnoxious, they were escorted back to their cabin where they would sleep it off.
The girls waltzed right in, and the men in the tavern, sensing a good thing, closed in behind them as they headed to the bar. The back bar, even in steerage, was an immense wooden thing, covering the entire wall at the end of the tavern with wood shelves and cabinets. The women targeted this destination. As they went past a table of Germans, trying to act like Norwegians, but with a definite German accent to their textbook correct Norwegian, two glasses of fine lager were pinched by the twins. As the other two were getting close to the bar, Amy and Amber wandered off with their glasses, while two of the Germans wondered what had happened to their drinks. Looking on the floor for broken glasses or spilled beer proved to be highly entertaining to the real Norwegians in their proximity.
Having lost Jenny in the crowd, Karin and Nadia approached the bar. Wonders of wonders a space opened up as the young men, seeing opportunity approach, moved to make room for the women at the bar. Nadia looked at the bartender, her eyes squinting in recognition. He looked at her, with a similar hardening of the eyes, which suddenly opened wide.
Nadia whispered. “The name is Nadia, and yes, it’s me.” Because they were now speaking in Romani, the language of the gypsy, no one was the wiser. To the others, surrounding them, there was just a murmuring, most of their speaking was by lip reading, a skill the two had practiced when they were young, and their parent’s caravans were often together. He nodded. He was there himself under another’s name, and identity which the real owner was past missing. An error while riding a horse on a dark road, and a broken neck do not make for an interest in the present. Two beers were instantly passed across the bar. Nadia introduced Karin to the bartender now know at Theodore, and the two women took their leave. Amber and Amy were in deep discussion with two Oslo boys who were desperate to polish their English. That the object of their attention were two angels, identical to the smiles on their faces just made the shine that much better.
Nadia sighted in on a table with four stools bolted to the floor, just three men, actually boys, were there and all three gave up their stools for the two women. The women made their choice of seating arrangements and small talk ensued.
One of the realities of ship life, is that there is little privacy outside your cabin, and when your cabin is shared with six other humans, the opportunity to spend time with your beau is rare indeed. However, Amy and Amber had found two lads who had the good fortune to be two of the four who actually showed up in their bunk cabin when the ship departed. The other two had been sea sick since the departure, and were tucked in for the night on the deck in two deckchairs. It seemed to make the rocking and rolling of the ship more tolerable. This was soon explained to the twins, who had already had the fun of leaving the room together, and returning to the other’s stool, and taking up the conversation with the new friend of their respective sisters. The boys never caught on, and if they did, probably wouldn’t have cared.
They had seen Jenny, the queen of the party, in a circle of about 7 young men. She had a glass of the lager in her hand, and seemed to be having the time of her life. Amy and Amber left with the two lads, after a brief discussion of the value of generosity. Upon their return, about 40 minutes later, the Jenny girl was still surrounded, this time with 6 men. Nadia and Karin were having interesting discussions with their boys, and Amy and Amber located the next fishes in the barrel.
Nadia excused herself when she saw Theodore going out a door to the side of the back bar, and quickly made her way there and was through the door in less than a half minute. Theodore was thrilled to see her, and the two lovers reunited behind the now locked door. Upon her return, she looked at Jenny, evaluated the situation, and like a dutiful big sister went to the now tipsy Jenny and plucked her from the party that was soon to happen in the bunk room of the six cousins. Taking Jenny by the arm, she collected Karin from the three new best friends and made their way back to the cabin. Amy and Amber were returning again for the second time. As they were not new to this behavior, they had left off the lipstick and facial makeup, as if they needed it at their age. Thus, nothing was askew, nothing was a telltale as to their behavior that evening. Joining the group of three, they made their way back to the cabin.
Thus was spent the remainder of the trip. The evening trips to the tavern always resulted in the twins adding to their purses, Nadia was brought up to date on the happenings with the family, and the rumors of the Tsar and the remnants, few indeed, of the household and the government now destroyed. She was told of another good friend of the Tsarist household, a cousin of one of the Cossacks, who was in Hollywood, California, and had made the transition from the stage, the thing they called vaudeville, to the new entertainment, the moving pictures. He told her how to find him, it she should ever get there. Jenny was pretty much a moving target for anyone with pants who she was noticed by. Her smile, her short stature made her look like a young target of opportunity, which, frankly, she was. Nadia was forever looking over her shoulder and dragging her away from dangerous liaisons. Karin, well Karin was still mourning, and didn’t see the point in making new friends who would disappear forever in a few days. Besides, Karin was soon to be in Madison, Wisconsin, and if she kept her mind about her, perhaps to be married to a man of substance. Perhaps.
The ship trip, and the time in immigration quarantine at Ellis Island took a while, and they were released on July 5, 1920. Amy, Amber, Jenny, Nadia, and Karin all booked passage on the same train to the Midwest. Inga and the child disappeared, perhaps forever into the depths of New York City. Claiming to have relatives, it was agreed by the rest that she would be alright. Perhaps.
The train schedule, printed on tissue paper, showed that the train would be in Chicago on July 7th, 1920, at 7 am, and after a transfer, all but Jenny would be on the same train to Madison, then Minneapolis for the twins. Nadia thought that she would stay on the train with the others to Madison, check out the city, and then pass on through to Los Angeles, California in due time. Not a bad decision, but one that would lead to some surprises.
Right on time, the train pulled into the station by Wilson Street, Williamson Street, and they picked up their belongings and left the two businesswomen, Amy and Amber to their future in Minneapolis. Arriving back in town with more money than they had left with three months before, they were already planning their next trip.
On the platform, Karin was quick to see the Swede. He was a head above the others, a regular looking family. A man most would see as handsome, a wife of some substance, a loving smile, and a shapely figure, with two children. A daughter of perhaps 9 or 10, and a beautiful little boy, perhaps 4. As the two women started down the platform, Nadia was planning her future. Uncertain at best, she had build her grubstake on the ship, a little from the card games she knew from the Cossacks, and a lot from her womanly knowledge and charms. She watch Karin get greeted from the man she introduced as the Swede. The names of the family blew past her as she checked the rest of the platform for the next mark. Then she heard Karin say that she, Nadia, was an established nanny, having worked in Moscow, and now needing both a place to stay, and a job.
The mother looked at the man, with a look in her eye, that only another woman familiar with men would recognize. The man, knowing his wife, nodded, and the wife addressed Nadia directly.
“We have been thinking of a nanny, to take care of the house and the children while I am busy with some charity work. We could offer you a trial period, and if you work out, $5 per week plus room and board. You would eat with the family.”
Nadia did not have to think twice. “I would be most grateful for an opportunity to prove myself as a worthwhile addition to your household. Thank you for this opportunity.”
After more talk, the group, now seven in number, moved out to the street. While there were a few horse draw freight trailers, this group approached a new Buick Touring Car. The men and the small boy entered the front, and the mother took the girl on her lap with the two new emigrants flanking her. The journey began.