When My Grandparents Arrived to Buenos Aires

An article on the Argentine newspaper Clarín prompted me to visit the CEMLA search engine and search for the arrival details of my grandparents migrating to Buenos Aires, and guess what, I found them.

The Georges

On the maternal side, I found information about my grandmother Herta Schlerff, my grandfather Roland Émile George, and my uncles Charles and Henry, who arrived to Buenos Aires on December 11th, 1939 (3 months after the start of World War II), on the MS Neptunia coming from Genoa.

Roland was a Geneva-born engineer working for an oil company (I think the name was “Astra” but I’m not sure), and the whole family would live first in Comodoro Rivadavia, an important oil production region, and later, from 1941 or 42 onwards, in Buenos Aires.

My uncles Charles and Henry were Mexican because Herta and Roland had lived in Mexico City for almost a decade prior to arriving in Argentina. My mother, Evelyne, would be born in Buenos Aires in 1944.

Interestingly, there’s a record about my grandmother in the database, but a later one, from December 16th, 1953 (merely days before turning 50), which corresponds to a trip to Europe she took that year to isolate her 9-year-old daughter Evelyne from a devastating outbreak of poliomyelitis in Buenos Aires. This time the ship was the Castel Felice.

Herta wasn’t born in Basel, but rather in Philippopolis (current day Plovdiv, Bulgaria). The mention of “Basel” was actually the “Heimatort” indicated on her Swiss passport (to this day, I have both Geneva and Basel as “places of origin” on mine.)

The Kosmaczewskis

From the paternal side, I found two separate records, as expected: first my grandfather Kazimierz Kosmaczewski, who arrived in Buenos Aires from Trieste on the Belvedere on January 9th, 1928.

(I’m surprised that the immigration officer wrote the family name correctly, if you ask me, even if they made a mistake when writing the first name down.)

And then my grandmother, Janina Marianna Fraczkowska, who arrived from Gdynia on the Pułaski (not the 19th century ship of the same name) on January 17th, 1938, just a few days before her 20th birthday.

When my grandmother arrived, my grandfather was 37 years old, and had lived exactly for a whole decade in Buenos Aires. He was working as a costume tailor and selling his work at renowned retail locations like Harrods and Gath & Chaves.

My Polish grandparents married as soon as Janina arrived; the Kosmaczewski and Fraczkowski families knew each other very well, and they had arranged the marriage in Poland. Janina and Kazimierz (or, as we called them in Argentina, “Yanina y Casimiro”) stayed married until he passed away in 2002. I remember attending the celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary in 1998! From their union, my uncle Jorge Kosmaczewski would be born in 1939, and my father Alberto in 1943.

(This makes me a second-generation Argentine from both sides of the family.)

Coda: The Ships

Interestingly, and a sign of the times, all four ships (the Neptunia, the Belvedere, the Pułaski, and the Castel Felice) were involved in one way or another during World War II, sometimes even participating in the battlefield.