One Nation, One Family: Two Generations Removed Perspective on Immigration

By Kevin Ward

“I never liked boats. You’ve had to hogtie me before you could get me to go below decks. I flew propeller craft commercially before I ever worked anywhere else. I miss seeing the world become so small beneath my wings.”

What were the factors that contributed to you choosing Fabric manufacturing/sales, doing it alone no less?

I owned a manufacturing business, was an independent sales rep and a Vice President of International Sales for a textile company. That was for seven years, then another seven as the sale rep, before being VP for 18. I got let go with a bunch of other guys and was tired of being an employee. Soon opportunities came to me to sell fabric. So that’s where I went. I’ve worked as a commission fabric and sales agent for 11 years now. Never looked back.

Can you give me a little bit of the family history?

 

I can start with my grandfather, Sam Zorovich. He was born in Croatia, part of the late Yugoslavia. He left after fighting in the Navy during WW I and when he came to the U.S. he worked as a longshoreman on the docks of N.Y.C. Eventually he learned how to drive and became a taxi driver. He established himself by asking customers the best routes. They liked his honesty and how he treated people with respect.

How do you think your grandfather's immigration story compares to modern day immigrant families?

Unlike today, immigrants in 1920 got no help from the government. You had to be on your own. Learn the language. Earn a living and come in disease free or you couldn’t enter. For many of them it was a way to make a better life for their families, which they did because of the land of the free. 

Right, so now you’re born, Sam, your Grandfather is running Acme Concrete Corporation with your father Michael-John, how did the rest come over?

My grandfather went back to Croatia. Why? A private meeting with leader of the country Marshall Tito. The fishing industry was nationalized, meaning they stole everyone’s boats for the “people.” Whatever Sam said must’ve worked because a year later they’re crossing the Adriatic Sea west bound to the Atlantic.

Picture it. You got the 4 brothers, a sister and their families sailing unidentified into Miami harbor with the family fishing boat. It was funny, all they knew was “Florida, America!” The Coast Guard captures them and the newspapers are reporting front page. My grandfather, Sam, had to write a $50,000 bond to release them and to sponsor all of them; to be sure they earned a living. The US Government was basically saying “Sam Zorovich you take damn good care of these people or it’s your head!” Now you can’t even easily deport a convicted illegal criminal alien back to the country he came from. Unfair, especially to the legal immigrants living here.  We gave exemptions. Now it’s convoluted.

What do you think has changed and needs to change with regard to the system? Does that line up with the family story

Someone had to sponsor you, even the Cubans needed a sponsor fleeing Castro before we implemented the dry foot, wet foot policy. Too many immigrants refuse to mix into our culture or even say the pledge. Today’s immigrants want to remain the person they were in their home country. Long term this threatens the survival of United States of America. When my grandfather came over he had to earn his money and it took seven years before he could bring his wife and son to the United States. You and me as taxpayers are paying for those people, unfair, they should support for themselves.

How did your father Michael-John, and your grandfather, Sam, influence your career in Business? Did you feel like you had big shoes to fill? 

I never look at having to fill big shoes to live up to my father and grandfather. They were strict on guiding what you should do, could do and cannot do. There is no safe space, no forgiveness for this, you have to be disciplined. BUT! By the time I was 16 I could drive a car, sail a boat on the ocean, fly airplanes as a pilot and had a lot of mechanical and mathematical understanding. Those days, their days, were important [to me] not incidental.

Who are you more like? How, why?

I am definitely more like my grandfather who took chances and was aggressive in business and in life. He tried so hard to make a business run so that he could support his family. He wasn’t with family often, except us grandkids. I believe strongly in that family has to come first, not always first, [he pauses.] God first, Family second, Country third, pretty close, right there, not a distant third. You live to benefit your children and society. Course, that’s why I am Big Daddy.
 

What has changed about America's people, do you think people today are more helpful in turning immigrants into successes or failures? Were the Americans back in your father's time just as helpful, more, less so? Do you think a hard-nosed approach is best?

The citizens of the United States by and large will always help. I have always helped. You just have to be willing to work, willing to learn. My Father’s Day? Grandfather’s Day? You read history there was plenty of discrimination. It was however a country that had few rules and one understanding. You could find the opportunity and make it a living. The United States was one of the few countries that offered THE opportunity. 

What should Immigrants be doing to improve their standing within the eyes of the American public, you or the government?

Be responsible for yourself. Follow that advice and you too can become part of the great big family that is this nation.