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In My Father’s Footsteps

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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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