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“With a Prayer on my Lips”


After the Treaty of Riga was signed in 1921 Belarus was divided into two parts. West Belarus became part of a new state – the Second Polish Republic (the Second Commonwealth of Poland).

The migration policy of the Polish authorities was quite loyal. Thecitizenshadtherighttogotoanycountry. Theyalsohadtherighttomoveabroadforpermanentresidenceandforwork.

The main reasons for Belarusians to leave their houses and go abroad were unemployment and “land hunger”.People drew up legal documents and went to work to the countries of Europe, and North and South America.

The number of people who left West Belarus during the interwar period is estimated at 180 000 - 240 000 according to some researchers.

The United States of America was one of the main countries where the flow of economic emigrants was going. American authorities closely monitored the newcomers not to allow in unreliable people. Alsopeoplewith tuberculosis, epilepsy, and psychical diseases wererefused Americanvisas.

The emigrants were delivered overseas by sea from the ports of Poland, France, Holland, and England. The journey took three-four weeks. The most demanded ticket in the middle class cabins cost, on the average, 100-120 American dollars. People sold out their property and spend their last money on a “one way”ticket.

Even in the period of the world economic crises the emigration to the United States of America did not stop.  The family members (wives and children) of the Belarusians who had managed to get on in life in the United States of America often moved overseas during those economically hard times.