From Poland to America: The Story of Joseph Greenland

My Great-Grandfather Joseph Greenland was born January 10th, 1903 in Brest Litovsk, Poland (modern-day Belarus) to his parents Avraham Grymland and Rose Glotzer. While living in Poland, Joseph had two sisters, Ethel and Leah and four brothers, Sol, Izak, Aaron, and Moshe. 


The Complicated Road to the United States:

When Joseph was just 17 years old, he made the decision to leave his parents behind in Poland and immigrate to the United States. However, Joseph’s road to the United States would be anything but simple. As the family story goes, when Joseph traveled to the United States, he arrived at Ellis Island. While he was there, he was told that his paperwork wasn’t correct and he would have to go through a different port of entry. 

Since this was the case, Joseph headed north to Canada. Here, he would be able to get his paperwork in order and would enter into the United States from Montreal on July 15th, 1920 via the Canadian Pacific Railway. 


Becoming a Citizen:

Once in the United States, Joseph would take a job as a plumber’s helper and was living with his Uncle Jack Greenland in Brooklyn, New York. Four years after arriving in the United States, Joseph applied to be a Naturalized Citizen on April 30th, 1924 at the age of 21.

Joseph Greenland Declaration of Intention

Three years later, on April 13th, 1927, Joseph would officially become a citizen of the United States. At this point in his life, he was still living in Brooklyn, New York but at this point, he had been promoted from a plumber’s helper to a full plumber. 

Naturalization Record of Joseph Greenland


Marriage to Mollie Kaplan:

Joseph would eventually meet his wife Mollie Kaplan (formally named Minka Kopiesno) and they would be married on June 12th, 1932 in Brooklyn, New York. They would have one child together, my grandfather, and would be married for forty years until Mollie’s death in 1972. 


The Greenland Family During the Holocaust:

Even though other members of Joseph’s family immigrated to the United States, the majority would remain in Poland. All of this would change when the Nazis invaded Poland on September 17th, 1939. During this time Joseph and his relatives in the United States would scramble to try to get their family members out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, their efforts would not be successful as seven members of his family, including his mother, two of his siblings, and four of his aunts and uncles, would perish during this terrible event in history. 


Joseph would eventually move to Missouri, for unknown reasons, where he would live out the rest of his days until his death in August of 1978. Joseph had a life full of changes and challenges of which he was able to overcome during his lifetime. My grandfather has described him as a kind and hard-working man, which can be seen in the actions he took during his life. 


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