Camille's Story

My mother was born in Argentina and my father in Czechoslovakia (when it was still Czechoslovakia).

My father’s parents left Czechoslovakia in 1966. My grandmother and grandfather split up so they wouldn’t both be imprisoned if caught, with one of them taking the plane and the other the train. They met in Vienna. Strangers they met from Canada smuggled their diplomas out of the country, because at the time it was illegal to immigrate. My mother’s distant family came from Russia and attempted to immigrate to New York through Ellis Island, but the boat they travelled on had disease on it, so they were quarantined and forced to go down to Argentina instead. One of my grandmother’s relatives was said to be the bed-maker for Russian czars, and this is why each generation gave a daughter a name starting with C in honor of Catherine II, the country’s longest-ruling female leader (my grandmother is Cloe; I am Camille).

Coincidentally, Catherine II reigned until her death on the 17th of November, 198 years before I was born on the 17th of November.