Monday, November 18, 2013

You Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee

by Rachel Dworkin, Archivist
In the aftermath of World War II, Europe was suffering with a serious humanitarian crisis.  Many cities, villages and towns had been decimated by the fighting and their residents scattered.  In addition to refugees fleeing destruction, almost 15 million people from 20 different were abducted by the Nazis to work in forced labor camps.  Many of these forced laborers died as a result of overwork, malnutrition and dangerous living conditions, but 11 million were freed by the end of the war.  The newly formed United Nations, the Red Cross and allied militaries worked to repatriate these displaced people.

How does this relate to the Southern Tier?  The Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief.  From the end of the war ‘til the early 1950s, the Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief worked to help resettle refugees, either in their own country or in the United States.  Locally, Harvey O. Hutchinson, member of the Hedding Methodist Church and retired Superintendent of Elmira City Schools, was in charge of helping refugees settle into life in the Twin Tiers.  He liaised with the Committee and immigration officials to get visa and arranged housing and employment here in the United States.  All told, Hutchinson was involved in helping dozens of people seeking to come to America.  Below are some examples:

Marija & Gunars Teauds
Marija Terauds was born in Skrunda, Latvia to a farming family in 1913.  Before the war, she was a homemaker raising her son Gunars, born in 1937, and working as a seamstress.  Her husband was killed during the war and she was abducted and sent to Germany to work in a factory in 1944.  After the war, she and her son found themselves in a series of Displaced Persons Camps in Germany.  In 1950, local dairy farmer J. Sloat Welles of Elmira agreed to sponsor them for transport and employ Marija on his farm.  They arrived in January 1951.

Dr. Janis Porietis
Dr. Janis Porietis of Latvia studied medicine at the University of Latvia.  He worked as a general practitioner before becoming a military physician in the Latvian Army.  After the war he worked as the camp doctor in a Displaced Persons Camp before applying to come to America.  Hutchinson managed to find a place for him and another doctor on staff at the Arnot-Ogden Hospital in 1950.

1 comment:

  1. Similar campaigns take place in our own times. In my new homwtown, St. Louis, there are many Bosnian refugees from the recent wars in their home country.