An immigrant’s story: ‘I never regretted coming here’

By Tammara Fogle | August 31, 2020

Lotti Eichhorn

By Lotti Eichhorn

Lotti, right, posed with her sister and father on the day she left for the United States. Today she lives at Larksfield Place.

I was born and raised in Switzerland. By 1960 I was in my mid-twenties and ready for a change. I was not escaping but I needed something new. So, I applied for a visa to the United States. In October 1961, I traveled by train to Germany and in Bremerhaven I boarded the SS Bremen for my transatlantic crossing.
Early on the morning of November 2, 1961, I watched from the deck as we passed the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island before entering New York harbor. I was greeted by my mother’s cousin and then spent a week at her home in Flushing, which was my base for sightseeing in New York and visiting with my grandmother’s sister in upper Manhattan. I spoke English fluently, so I did not need a guide to get around. On the weekend, my relatives treated me to a performance in Radio City Music Hall.
At the end of the week, I boarded a Greyhound bus to Boston. A cousin of my father lived there with her husband and her mother and they had provided the affidavit for my visa. I settled into their guest room and soon met the rest of their family. I was also introduced to the classified section of The Boston Globe, as I intended to find a job as soon as possible.
A tiny ad caught my eye: A travel agency was looking for an employee in the overseas department. It was the same kind of job I’d done back home. On Monday morning I gathered up my recommendations and took the streetcar to the agency.
A nice gentleman named Wilson interviewed me and gave me a test: calculate the fare for a multiple-stop international plane trip, using the provided fare book. I failed, because in Zurich we simply called the airline to do that for us. Mr. Wilson patiently explained the method that was used in Boston and gave me a similar problem. I solved it. He told me that one of the owners would need to approve my hiring and asked me to return at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning. I returned as asked and introduced myself to the boss, who said: “Why aren’t you working yet?” Thus, after five days in Boston, including a weekend, I was gainfully employed. I promptly looked for my own housing, as I had no intention of being a longtime houseguest. I did not know yet whether my stay would be temporary or permanent, but I felt that the United States had welcomed me with open arms. I never regretted coming here.
Postscript: Lotti met and married her husband of 53 years after moving to Washington, D.C. in 1963. She became a U.S. citizen in 1967, while pregnant with their second child. She was motivated to become a voter partly because women in Switzerland did not obtain that right until four years later.