Thoughts From a Refugee

These last few days have been hard. As a refugee whose family was thrown out of a Soviet-backed country, I feel deeply for the Ukrainian people.

This month is 53 years since I arrived in the U.S. with my parents and younger brother. Because my father was Jewish, we were thrown out of Poland along with 11,000 other Jews who had survived the Holocaust. My mother is Catholic and was forced to give up her citizenship and to sign a document saying she was leaving as a Jew, meaning she would likely never see her family again.

We waited in Vienna for five months to see which country would let us in. My father always wanted to live in the U.S., but we had no relatives here who could sponsor us.

HIAS, an organization that has been resettling refugees since the 1890s, paid for our food and housing while we waited. On the 50th anniversary of my arrival to the U.S. I was able to get the HIAS file with all the documents pertaining to our immigration to the U.S. as refugees. It was a life-long goal to find and pay the HIAS bill for our travel, housing, and food both in Vienna and when we first arrived in NYC.

In the file, I also found unclassified documents where President Lyndon B. Johnson was being briefed on our refugee group and the danger we were in. Luckily for my family, the immigration quota from Poland was increased so we could enter the U.S. When I read through all these documents as a successful 55-year-old, it was very clear to me how things could have turned out differently, and how incredibly lucky we were.

As I watch these mothers with children in Ukraine say goodbye to their husbands and sons, I get so sad. Being a refugee and not knowing where home will be is scary. Living in the U.S. has made me keenly aware that freedom and democracy are to be prized.

Watching the Berlin Wall fall was something I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Up until last week, I never thought we would see Russia attack a country because they wanted freedom and democracy. Seeing things go backward is breaking my heart. Could you please help me raise money so HIAS can help Ukrainian refugees?

See below for a link to the donation page:

Thank you!

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