Confluence (n.) The joining together of two rivers, where one flows into another forming a larger mainstream. Confluence Magazine is the place where our smaller stream of documentary work meets and mixes with the river of stories being made and shared with the world.
Adina’s mother wore this red scarf on her wedding day; on the left Adina’s younger daughter, Ilinca, 6, models it while wearing a traditional northern Romanian folk dress hand crafted by the grandmother she never met. On the right, an active young Adina in similar garb still remembers having to stop playing to stand still for this photo.
A holiday blouse Adina’s mother made and embroidered as a young girl was already special to her when she wore it for this portrait of her at 18. Adina loves these wearable traces of the past, pulling them out from time to time to wear for special occasions or to dress her girls in. She says, “At one point in time I was thinking about framing them to preserve them, but that meant I won't be able to touch them anymore and I decided not too. I like to see them on my girls and tell them: ‘This was made by my mother’s hands.’”
Handmade clothing conjures up the touch of the maker and wearer—Adina is comforted that she’s able to share this embroidered blouse, made by her mother, with her own daughters. She also wants her daughters “to understand that other people might have hardship, and not judge people by looking at them. Try to think that there is a story behind everything.”
On February 19, 1942, six weeks after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, broadly authorizing the military to remove people deemed a threat (primarily Japanese and Japanese-Americans) from the West Coast. Elaine’s younger son, Sam, 23, first learned of his family’s history during a middle-school assignment, when he interviewed his grandparents. It’s affected his life since; he’s visited the site of their camp in Colorado, and says knowing the story “gave me a lot stronger of a sense of who my family is, who I am.”
Akira Matsushita, seen here in an official Army portrait signed “Love, Aki,” earned a black belt in judo before the war. Elaine treasures his old judo robe, or gi, embroidered with his name in kanji characters. When Elaine’s brother was young, Akira drove him to judo; he also got a black belt. Later, when his grandsons were kids, he drove them to judo, too.
Elaine and her 91-year-old mother, Fumiko, are close. Elaine says when Fumiko and her parents and siblings were taken from their California home, they first lived in horse stalls at a racetrack. “And then they were put on trains when the camps were ready. They were put in trains and the shades were drawn so they didn’t know where they were going.” Elaine still wonders what they thought as they rode that train for four days.
Elaine’s older son, Josh, 27, wearing his grandfather’s Army jacket, tries to understand the paradox of Akira’s military service: “you’re being asked to prove your loyalty to a country that denies you your civil rights and denied your family [its] civil rights.” His grandparents’ experience in the camps has shown him “the need to be in solidarity with minorities and to stand up against injustice.” Josh now works in Chicago with RefugeeOne, helping refugees get jobs and become self-sufficient.
Charlotte reaches out to touch her favorite keepsake—a Sicilian bedspread hand-embroidered with fine ribbons. Her grandfather once traveled to Sicily to see his mother; he brought home a bedspread for each of his four daughters. In the center, the ribbons depict a farmer and his wife, and the word “summer” in Latin. It was the one thing Charlotte really hoped to inherit from her mother.
Phil’s mother, Elena, holds coins worth well more than their face value to her, as they carry bits of her history. She came to the U.S. from Ukraine in 1981, when it was still part of the USSR. A Russian ruble dedicated to the 30th anniversary of victory in WWII reminds her that, as a baby-boomer, she’s lived her life in the shadow of that war. She keeps a coin minted a year before her emigration to the U.S., a Kennedy half-dollar, and Israeli shekels left over from her trips to Israel.
Anita’s grandfather, Charlotte’s father, Louis, fought in Tunisia for the U.S. during World War II, but was captured by Rommel and spent 27 months in a German prison camp. This calendar he kept in the camp runs from April to December 1943, then stops—Charlotte doesn’t know why. Louis circled the date of Thanksgiving. Charlotte was born exactly two years later on November 25. When she inherited the notebook, it gave her the chills to see her birthday circled.
The woven threads of a family come together in one veil. Anita and Chaitanya’s young daughter, Amelia, holds a photo of her grandmother Charlotte at age 20 on her wedding day. Both are draped in the same mantilla. Charlotte says, “The mantilla actually is a gift from my husband’s family. When we were married his sisters made the mantilla to wear on our wedding day. And Anita also wore it when she was married to Chaitanya.”