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Roger Roels was stuck in America

Roger Roels was a seaman. He happened to be in the United States when the war broke out and was unable to return to Belgium. When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, he enlisted with the US Navy. After the war he asked the love of his life, Anna, who he had not seen since the conflict started, to join him in the United States.

Roger Roels was a seaman before the war, sailing on the Antwerp-New York route, usually on ships that transported horses. When he was in Antwerp, he sometimes visited a pub in the popular Antwerp neighbourhood known as “Den Dam”, which used to be a favourite hangout with seamen. There he met Anna Raveaux, who was a seamstress but also worked in her sister’s pub. Roger and Anna gradually got to know each other better. They soon fell in love and Roger took Anna to the Sinksenfoor, a local funfair.

In the summer of 1914 Roger left for the United States for the umpteenth time. He found out that Belgium was at war just as he arrived in the US. As he was unable to return immediately, he settled in New York. After a few months Antwerp was also occupied and he was no longer able to contact his beloved Anna. When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, Roger enlisted with the US Navy. His naval training started in March 1918 in New York. The war ended nine months later. Roger could finally write a long-awaited letter to Anna, asking her to marry him and inviting her to join him in the United States. He would pay for her ticket.

Anna was 23 at the time and decided to take the plunge even though she had not seen Roger in six years. In November 1920 Anna disembarked from the Kroonland in New York. They were soon married and built a new life together. Roger died of lung disease in 1928. Anna decided to stay in the United States even though she had no family and very few friends or acquaintances there. She loved the opportunities that her new country afforded her.

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