Video: They thought they were American, then they were deported

Christ the King, Frankfurt, helps 'homecomers' rebuild their lives

By Matthew Davies
Posted Mar 12, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] Harry Bielskis thought he was American until the day he was deported.

For the past 2 years, the former bus driver from Portland, Oregon, has been forced to recycle his life in Germany, a country he’d not stepped foot in for almost 60 years. He didn’t even speak the language.

In 1956, when Harry was 4 years old, his mother decided they should leave their German homeland in search of a better life. One week later, America was their new home. In all that time, Harry had never sought U.S. citizenship. He never thought he would need it. But after a brush with the law, on paper and in the eyes of U.S. Immigration, Harry was German and his destiny already set.

Christ the King Episcopal Church in Frankfurt helps people like Harry rebuild their lives through a ministry called Heimkehrer, which means homecomer. Social workers and volunteers offer them support and guidance, and many of the returnees, as they’re known at Christ the King, become valued members of the community.


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Comments (9)

  1. Has this country lost sight of it’s original mission! That being to welcome immigrants and to keep faith with those who link their lives to us by acquired citizenship (birth not withstanding). It may help to revisit the words engraved upon the base of Lady Liberty: “Give me your tired your poor…your huddled masses yearning to be free…the wretched refuse of your teaming shore…send these the homeless tempest tossed to me…I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Get it together America…bring Heimkehrer back home where he belongs!

  2. John B Hills says:

    I echo the sentiments of C David Williams. At the same time, as a US Army enlisted man in Frankfurt in 1954-55, I was grateful for the Episcopal congregation, then worshiping in a Quonset hut. Was it then called St Christopher’s? Anyway, I commend the members of Christ the King for helping the returnees adjust to life in Germany.

    1. The Rev. Lucretia Jevne says:

      Yes it was St. Christopher’s back then. And yes I echo the sentiments expressed. How can a 4 year old determine where he lives and how he grows up? This just highlights the brokenness of our immigration problems.

  3. Catherine Cheek says:

    I wish Mexico had a haven like Christ The King. It is sad that our country has changed its attitude on immigrants, the same country who said, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free.” What happened?

  4. Kent Blacklidge says:

    Wow! What happened to Harry Bielskis should not have. Our immigration system is broken, for sure. The answer is not to send people “back” to their countries of origin en masse. On the other hand, this is not 1886, the year the Statue of Liberty was dedicated. Immigration must be controlled and limited. Population explosions in other parts of the world will put increased pressure for migration to the USA and other developed countries. Unchecked, this is a race to the bottom.

  5. Michelle Mayfield-Baske says:

    I am very glad that Christ the King assists anyone in getting settled. I also think it is a shame what happened to the second gentleman who served in the US Armed Forces. Although I can empathize with the shock that the Mr. Bielskis felt upon being deported, he was not under the impression that he had citizenship. It was not important enough to him to become an American before he was jailed for a crime.

  6. Peter and Martha Schwuerzer says:

    Congratulations to Harry and Eileen Mc Donald for the intersting docu. about the Heimkehrers. These People are indeed a welcome part of our Christ the King Family. Being torn away from their family and friends in the USA is a painful experience that seems excessive in judicial punishment. They have been incarcerated and served their time: Isn`t that enough?
    Let us hope that future will be kinder in its judgments and not tear families apart who know America as their real home.

  7. Jeremy Rorison says:

    I think too it is very sad that Harry has had to give up to go back to USA and can not see his family or friends I believe that is a harsh /cruel judgment by USA authoritys to him. But the way of God is mysterious and I see that he has already made improvments and changes in his life. I have listened to his stories with an awareness of what he went through and has had to leave behind. However God gives him a new chance in Germany and what I have heard and seen in our church of CTK he will make it 10 times better.

  8. gretel ghamsharick says:

    I teach in a school and we have had some cases of children with American citizenship deported with German mothers. These teenagers are very confused and angry. It is very cruel.

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