I was born in Uvgheni, Romania on 4th July 1922.¬† My father left for the USA in 1930, and worked 12 hours a day, earning $5.00 per week. He lived on $2.00 and sent my mother and her six children the remaining $3.00 per week.¬† In June 1932 we received our visas and traveled to San Francisco, where my father had a sister. All my family lives in San Francisco to this day.¬† I am the only one of two brothers and three sisters who made aliyah.
In or about 1936, the Hashomer Hatzair movement opened a branch in San Francisco.¬† Two of my sisters and I joined almost immediately. The leader of this movement was Yehoshua Zamir from Kibbutz Ein Dor. His son was killed at the Beaufort Crusader Fort on Mount Hermon in the first Lebanese War of 1982.
In December 1942 during World War II, I was drafted into the army and stationed in India and Burma. I was discharged in January 1946. After my discharge I went to the training farm run by the Hashomer Hatzair movement in Hightstown, New Jersey, and remained there until I volunteered to go to Eretz Yisrael on a Haganah ship. The Haganah had bought the "SS Mala," and later renamed it the "Calanit."
I served as a sailor on the "Calanit," although I had no previous experience. In or around March 1948, we sailed from New York with 50 American volunteers and continued to Marseilles. There we installed 800 bunks to accommodate Holocaust survivors. We picked up the passengers in a small secret port near Marseilles in the middle of the night to avoid being seen, and sailed on a zig-zag course to Haifa to avoid being attacked by Egyptian submarines. We arrived in Haifa on 13th May, several days before the creation of the State of Israel. This made the "Calanit" the last illegal vessel to have left Europe in the saga of Aliyah Bet.
The passengers were weak, tense and worried; some had young babies; the only food they received during the eight-day voyage was warm soup, distributed in a bucket. The sanitary conditions were horrible because the ship was so overcrowded: it was built to carry about 100 passengers. Nevertheless, the ship made a few more trips..
When I left the ship I went to Kibbutz Ein Hashofet, where I joined other Americans who were there. I immediately felt that I ‚Äúhad come home,‚ÄĚ and knew that I would never leave Israel, which I never did, except for a few short trips to San Francisco to visit family.
In January 1949 we established Kibbutz Sasa - 120 people, all Americans. I married a girl from Hadera in December 1950 and subsequently left the kibbutz. I worked for 35 years as a bus driver and shareholder in the Egged Bus Co-op.
Author:¬† Yitzhak Calic
This story is reprinted with the kind permission of the Palyam website:¬† www.palyam.org