I was born on May 25, 1954, in Verviers, Belgium, the only child of Lucien Mathieu Amélie Sante and Denise Lambertine Alberte Marie Ghislaine Nandrin. Following the bankruptcy of my father’s employer, an iron foundry that manufactured wool-carding machinery, and at the suggestion of friends who had emigrated earlier, my parents decided to move to the United States in search of work. We arrived at Idlewild Airport in February 1959 and moved in with my parents’ friends in Summit, New Jersey. Prospects were not as bright as they had been depicted, and that November we sailed back to Belgium, but the situation there was no better, and early in 1960 we re-emigrated. Several more such trips occurred over the next few years, spurred by momentary hopes, by the Cuban Missile Crisis, by the illnesses and deaths of my maternal grandparents. At length my parents decided to remain in America, at least until the time came when they could retire to Belgium.
I was born in 1954 in Verviers, Belgium, the only child of Lucien and Denise Sante. Following the bankruptcy of my father’s employer, an iron foundry that manufactured wool-carding machinery, and at the suggestion of my mother’s brother, René Nandrin, my parents decided to move to the Belgian Congo, where my father would take up a position as local field director for a palm-oil concern. In February 1959, we arrived in Coquilhatville, on the banks of the Congo River, and moved into a company-owned villa in the European district. Suddenly we had servants and a chauffeured car. On the other hand, I came down with a succession of ailments aggravated by the climate and spent most of my time in bed. Barely a year later the Belgian government announced that the Congo would be granted its independence that June, and my parents’ friends and colleagues began to show signs of alarm, sending prized possessions, for example, back to their families in Belgium. Emotions had risen to a point of panic by late May, when the first general elections were held. My parents and their friends dismissed their servants, fearing treachery. My father barricaded my mother and me and would himself not leave the house without a loaded revolver on his hip. Violent incidents began occurring, most of them in the south of the country, but some close enough that my father, over my mother’s protests, sent us home. He followed a little over a month later, when fighting had become widespread; his employer turned over local control to native African managers. Connections made in the Congo led my father to a job with the Min-istry of Commerce, and we moved to Berchem-Ste.-Agathe, a suburb of Brussels, where I recovered and later found I had a surprising aptitude for competitive cycling.
I was born in 1954 in Verviers, Belgium, the only child of Lucien and Denise Sante. Following the bankruptcy of his employer, an iron foundry that manufactured wool-carding machinery, my father tried to find …
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