Good DEEDS Beget Good Deeds
Evelyn Buretta, from May 2015 Intersections
In the early spring of 1950 when I was eight years old, my parents woke my sisters and me one midnight and said, “This is Halina. She will be living with us now and will sleep in your room.” This lady was about 20 years old and spoke in accented English.
My parents, bilingual in Polish and English, had arranged to host a Polish lady, categorized as DP, a displaced person from WWII, through the local Catholic Diocese. Hosts were obligated to provide room and board, a salary of about $15 a week, and pay transportation costs from Poland if the hosted person remained in the household for at least one year.
Hosting a DP was an especially generous deed from my frugal dad, struggling with farm bills, to help my mom, who had five children and another one on the way.
Halina lost all members of her immediate and probably her extended family and had spent a long time in a concentration camp during the war. The term Holocaust survivor was not common at that time. When the Nazis invaded Poland, it was likely that Halina and her family were imprisoned just for being Polish.
Halina did not stay with us the required one year. She was anxious to join a boyfriend in Chicago and left earlier.
After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, many Vietnamese refugees arrived in San Jose, California, where I was living at that time. I did some volunteer work with that new community. In 1986 when I was 43 years old, a series of events led me to becoming a foster parent to several Vietnamese children. My whole family thought I was ill-suited because I had never had any children. I told my parents that they had set an example by sponsoring Halina.
I don’t know how successful I was as a foster parent. Children who have experienced trauma from their birth parents are not always happy children. But I hope I have helped by giving them the best foundation I could for the time they were with me.
I am still the mother figure to three of them.