KINGSTON, R.I. – February 19, 2009 – Marie Silverman and Jeannette Bornstein were just 5 and 9 years old when they began a life on the run from the Nazis.
Natives of Antwerp, Belgium, the young girls spent five years as nomads in France as hidden children, living in a root cellar, two schools and a deportation camp before they were able to escape without their parents to Barcelona, Spain.
Separated from their parents, Marie and Jeannette journeyed from Portugal to the United States with their aunt and uncle, but where they were again separated from their family and placed in an orphanage in Rhode Island, becoming the first refugee children from the Holocaust to wind up in the state. The girls developed a lifelong friendship with Ruth Goldstein, with whom Marie lived as a child.
Their full story is told in Trust in the Journey: Becoming a Family – Marie, Jeannette and Ruth, which will premiere at the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Providence Campus on March 29 at 2 p.m. Written and directed by Frank Toti, Jr., the play is part of a month-long series of events on the Holocaust hosted by the URI Feinstein Providence Campus Urban Arts and Culture, in conjunction with the Holocaust Education and Resource Center of Rhode Island.
Steven Pennell, coordinator of the Arts and Culture Program at the Feinstein Providence Campus, has arranged for Silverman, Bornstein and Goldstein to all attend the event. Pennell and Toti met with the women, both of whom stayed in Rhode Island through their adult lives before moving to Florida.
“To meet these women and listen to their story was simply overwhelming,” Pennell said. “This is such an important time in the history of the world, and these women lived it. Their story is powerful, and to be able to have them back in Rhode Island for the play is truly special.”
Trust in the Journey explores their lives on the run, the familial bond they developed with Bornstein and their emotional reunion with their mother five years after the family was separated. Toti developed the play through documents and interviews with the sisters and Goldstein.
The play is just part of the series of exhibits and programming. The series begins March 5 with the presentation Letters to Sala – A Young Women’s Life in Nazi Labor Camps with author Ann Kirschner. Kirschner wrote Sala’s Gift, a memoir based on the personal diary of her mother Sala Garncarz Kirschner, a Polish Holocaust survivor who spent 1940 through 1945 in a Nazi labor camp.
“Our theme for the exhibit is Women’s Stories – The Will to Survive and Thrive,” Pennell said. “Each aspect of the programming provides a powerful look at what women in particular experienced during such a painful time in the world’s history.”
For the entire list of exhibit events, visit www.uri.edu/prov. For information on these programs contact Steven Pennell at 401.277.5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVEN PENNELL
CAPTION – Sisters Jeannette Bornstein and Marie Silverman – shown in this undated photo – were the first Holocaust refugees to come to Rhode Island. Their full story is told in Trust in the Journey: Becoming a Family – Marie, Jeannette and Ruth, which will premiere at the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Providence Campus on March 29 at 2 p.m. The women will attend the event