Shelby Yastrow wishes he could thank his grandparents for what their exodus from tyranny did for him, his cousins, and all of their children who have followed. Shelby’s mother, grandparents, uncle, and aunts came to the United States in the early 1900’s. They had lived in Russia, in the area known as Belarus, but they fled to the west because of the terrible persecution of the Jews. In fact, there were atrocities committed against the family. When they came to America they had nothing but the clothes on their backs, and collectively they couldn’t speak a single word of English. They moved in with relatives who had immigrated to the U.S. earlier, and who were already living in over-crowded quarters – but families shared, even when they had little to share, and they took care of each other.
When reflecting on his upbringing, surrounded by this family who had courageously traveled to distant shores to provide their children and their children’s children with better futures, Shelby Yastrow remembers that he was surrounded by people who were joyous for being free in America, and were content to raise their children and maintain a solid household.
Shelby measures successes and achievement in terms of contributions to society, rather than in terms of accumulated wealth, and he considers himself and his family extremely successful.
Shelby says that, to him, his citizenship “means that I have so much that I wouldn’t have had but for that escape from Europe. It means that my children won’t go to bed hungry tonight. It means that they can have more meaningful lives than their parents. It means that, no matter who we are, we have teachers who can teach us, doctors who can cure us, and police who can protect us. It means that we can vote to elect the people to govern us and that we can go out and protest against our leaders without fear of retribution.
And it means that our governmental disputes are resolved with ballots and not bullets.”
Because of his heartfelt appreciation for his American citizenship, and the privileges and opportunities that this country provided to him and his family, Shelby Yastrow is indeed an honorable citizen.