Franyo was twenty-nine years old when she fled Europe in 1938. Her half-brother, Waldo, twenty years her senior, had already emigrated to the States and was able to get her a visa – something he did for a number of friends and relatives. Franyo crossed the Atlantic on a deluxe ocean liner, I believe the Queen Mary, though I’m not clear on the details. She told me she was so relieved and happy to have gotten out that she danced every evening of the voyage. She also told me she arrived with very little money, and needed to sell the antiques she had smuggled out of Germany to raise cash.
She was met in New York by an older female relative she didn’t know and took an immediate dislike to because the woman was so stuffy, proper, and full of reproaches. The very first thing she noticed as she disembarked was that many people in the crowd were moving their mouths in an odd way that reminded her of cows chewing cud. She had never seen chewing gum before and from then on poked fun at those who indulged in the habit.
I believe my mother was one of those people who always landed on her feet. Certainly she was good in a crisis as I witnessed many years later when my sister freaked us all out by getting pregnant before abortions were legal, and Franyo had to find a willing doctor and keep Vivi quiet during the procedure – no anaesthesia available to dull the pain. But that’s another story. Somehow, without funds, Franyo found herself a wonderful little apartment in the West 50s.
She worked as a photographer back then, building a small clientele, including the actor, Tyrone Power. My father had arrived in New York at about the same time. She admitted to me that she wasn’t particularly interested in him at first. But she had photographed him. As the picture slowly developed and his handsome features emerged, she fell in love.
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