Eat.Enjoy.Live.: New book details a refugee’s life in Springfield

10/5/2017 | G. Michael Dobbs

Category: October 2017

Hannah Perlstein Marcus
Reminder Publications submitted photo

 For Hannah Perlstein Marcus the act of writing about her childhood and her community of Jewish refuges in Springfield called up memories that had been forgotten.

“There were a lot of revelations. It really surprised me,” she told Reminder Publications.

The book is subtitled “Memories of the Jewish Greenhorns in 1950s America.”

According to David Garnes, author of “After the War Was Over: A Novel of World War II,” said, “The beauty of ‘Surviving Remnant’ ...lies in the universality of its story, the making of a new life ... against difficult odds.”

The book is a follow-up to her first memoir “Sidonia's Thread,” which detailed the relationship between the author and her mother. She explained that new book grew out of the interest of one chapter on “Sidonia's Thread” about the refugee community in Springfield.

Marcus was born at the Bergen Belsen displaced persons camp after World War II and later immigrated to Springfield with her mother in 1949 before her second birthday. She was part of a larger group of Jewish refuges that was accepted by the city through the Displaced Person Act.

Her mother was single and both of her parents were Hungarian caught up in the Holocaust. She described her relationship with her mother in her first book and as she toured around the country promoting it, she found audiences wanted to know more about the immigrant community in Springfield of which she and her mother was part.

The second book was “not something I had planned on doing,” she said.

She wrote the new book from the perspective of a child, she explained, and tried to incorporate as many of the 100 or so refugee families that made up the community. She said that some people were described with fictitious names, while other were described in characters that combined several people.

Their arrival in Springfield was “really by random.” The city was one of many that would accept refuges during the years immediately following WWII.

She and her mother lived with many of the refuges in a building in the North End by the intersection of Dwight and Osgood streets.

Marcus described herself as “very much American,” as she came here at such a young age and the book is designed not just to recount her experiences growing up, but the journey of her refugee neighbors, one that she described as “funny and sad at the same time.”

At the time she thought her life was “very normal,” but as she grew older she realized how special it was.

At the end of the book she recalled the next chapter of her life when she and her mother moved from the North End to Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood. She is a graduate of Classical High School.

Marcus added that only one or two of her mother’s generation of refugees from that group are alive today, but she has kept in contact with many of her generation and they are living all over the nation.

Now living in Vernon, CT, Marcus has had a long career as a social worker licensed clinical social worker and human services administrator.

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