Saturday, March 21, 2015


by Sandy Gurev

On a blustery December night in Rochester, New York in 1979 my husband and I headed to the Rochester International Airport.  We planned on meeting with other members of our synagogue, Temple Sinai, to greet a Laotian family whose father had escaped after six years in a Vietnamese concentration camp and rejoined with his wife and six children at a refugee camp in Thailand.
Our small group came prepared with shopping bags of coats, boots, mittens, scarves and hats to fit two adults and six children ranging in age between fourteen and six.  Our synagogue sponsored the family.  Our commitment entailed finding an apartment for them on a bus line, providing furniture and kitchen ware, enrolling the children in school, and obtaining Medicaid and Aid to Dependent Families, helping them to find jobs, enrolling them in English language classes and providing friendship.  It was a tall order but we had such a large group of enthusiastic volunteers willing to share the responsibilities.

We were told that the family would be arriving from a refugee camp in Thailand where they had lived for 1-2 years.  Since we anticipated them arriving in lightweight clothing not suitable for Upstate New York winters, we were ready for them with the warm outer clothing.  Much to our surprise they came off the plane fully dressed for snowy weather.  We later learned that the Jewish Federation outfitted them during a flight stopover in San Francisco.  It was the first of many surprises.


 Sandy Gurev is a wife of fifty-one years and mother of two sons and four grandchildren.  Sandy was an elementary school counselor prior to retiring to Williamsburg, VA nine year's ago from Rochester, NY. Her volunteer work includes providing lunch to cancer patients and fitting women with wigs after they have lost their hair.  Playing competitive duplicate bridge and belonging to two book clubs rounds out her time.  Within the past two years she has written a memoir for her grandchildren and a couple of articles for the American Amateur Press Association. Sandy found that writing helped to reduce her perception of pain while she was awaiting back surgery.

No comments:

Post a Comment