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In My Father’s Footsteps


As his parents’ apartment building did not permit pets or children, my father spent the first six years of his life living with his grandparents at 800 St Marks Avenue, a neat neo-Georgian mansion in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant. For much of the time, he was sequestered in the nursery on the top floor and tended to by a shifting cast of starched and white-capped nannies. Down the hall, preserved in all its nineteenth-century splendour, was the ballroom, with high vaulted ceilings and a grand theatre stage at the far end. This was a home more suited to the lifestyle of an old East Coast family than to that of aspirant Polish immigrants, but it was a house his family were proud of, a clear sign that they had made it – that they were right to cross oceans and that America, for those who worked hard enough, was indeed a land of opportunity.

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