When Anneros Valensi made the move to the United States in 1966, she found a sense of belonging and happiness, after surviving the horrific atrocities of World War II in Germany.
The 81-year-old Riverdale resident shares her story in ‘Where is Home?’ self-published in November 2013 about her upbringing in post-war Germany, while ‘Finding Happiness in America’ published in March 2017 tells her transition to adult life in New York City.
Born in East Germany in 1938, Valensi, a non-Jewish refugee, recalls the fall of the Nazi regime in World War II. Though Hitler was gone, life in East Germany was strenuous. Valensi’s family suffered from poverty living under Russian occupation beginning in 1945.
“Life under Russian rule consisted of hunger, danger, bombing, homelessness, uncertainty and heavy physical work for women and everyone else,” Valensi said. “My mother was so worn out and couldn’t go in the fields. She was punished by doing the Russians’ laundry.”
At the age of 6, Valensi and her family were evicted to West Germany in 1946, arriving with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Valensi recalls hunger, fear of war, and the trauma of an unsettling life.
“They loaded people up in trains and counted how many people were at the station,” Valensi said. “We never knew where we were going to be, most of our time were spent on the train loaded with refugees.
After traveling to various locations throughout Germany, Valensi couldn’t wait to leave the country and see what’s happening in the world, she said.
“Nobody wanted to talk about the war in Germany,” Valensi said. “It was a horrible sight that people just wanted to forget. At times, not knowing and getting any answers, I felt ashamed, embarrassed and felt that maybe I caused all of this misery.”
At the age of 22, she became a registered nurse and moved to London, England, in 1961 to work as an au pair. Yet, she still didn’t feel that sense of belonging.
In 1966, she made her way to the United States and trained in Kansas City to become a flight attendant for Trans World Airlines, she said. When she relocated to New York City, her life changed for the better — she finally found a place to call home.
“I wanted to enjoy my work and create a life here,” Valensi said. “I felt comfortable here and the people were nice.”
Even though she travels to Germany to visit her family, she feels happiness when she returns to the states, she said.
“I always looked a step ahead,” Valensi said. “I wanted to grow and I didn’t want to go back to what I had. I wanted to learn more and thrive and do things better.”
Today, Valensi still continues to write and she is currently into poetry. She has two children and three grandchildren.