The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—There are others besides Hungarians in Austrian refugee camps who want to immigrate to the United States. These are Poles, Czechs and Yugoslavs who in the U.S. have relatives willing to pay their way, look after them and see that they get work.

But no visas for them are available. The Refugee Relief Act, which provided special visas for escapees, expired last December, and our normal immigration quota for Eastern Europeans is over-subscribed for many years.

Here is a letter handed to me at Camp Glasenbach, where there are refugees of the nationalities I have mentioned, plus a number of Russians:

"Dear Madame:

"We, Lajos and Aranka Farkas, residing at Camp Glasenbach Bar 3/34 Salzburg, Austria, ask your Excellency herewith for your kind help in emigration case. I am a Hungarian refugee whose brother-in-law, Eugen Weiss, would like to pay everything for my emigration to the U.S. Mr. Weiss is living in Philadelphia, U.S.A.

"We are now two years in Austria and are still waiting for emigration. HIAS promised us immediate help.

"Thanking you for your kindness, I remain,

"Yours truly,

"Farkas, Lajos, and Aranka Farkas,

"I registered in April, 1947."

Here is another letter, and in this case I was told that the man writing it has cousins in the U.S.:

"Dear Madame:

"We take the liberty to bring the following appeal to your kind attention while you are visiting our camp.

"There are many old and new refugees in Austria from Yugoslavia, mostly Croatians and Slovenians, who would like to emigrate to the U.S., since they have their parents, brothers, sisters or other relatives there. There are also many others who would prefer to emigrate to the U.S. only.

"We are asking you herewith again for your kind intervention at the various U.S. authorities in order to obtain the privilege of admission to the U.S. of America. We assure you of our gratitude and remain,

"Yours truly,

"For the Slovenian and Croatian refugees at Glasenbach, Franz Sumen"

It does not seem quite right that the U.S., which was built by people of many different nationalities, should not rise to this emergency, which is not a very big one and which involves not too many thousand people, most of them able to earn their own living.

Some Western European countries are accepting old people, putting them on relief for the rest of their lives and giving them places to live. Other countries have admitted the blind, tuberculosis sufferers, and permanently incapacitated persons for the rest of their lives.

We are being asked to take only those who can work. Some may be temporarily ill, but the rest of the family will care for them until they recover.

The free world, I think, owes the Austrian government a debt of gratitude. It took on a great temporary burden when its economy was not yet well reestablished.

I wish that in this country, either through a foundation or some other organization, something could be done for the people in the border villages who first received the Hungarian refugees. It took courage, and no household, I was told, refused them.

These people are simple peasants, living close to a menacing border. I wish, by some gesture, we could tangibly express our admiration to them.

On May 10 I talked at length with European representatives in Austria of some American non-governmental organizations like the World Church Alliance, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, United HIAS Service, and the YMCA, and with representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration.

They are doing all they can, and the people in the camps are better cared for than were the refugees after the war. But camps are not good to live in. And the Americans who work in Austria know that the human family, no matter where it lives or what language it speaks, is closely tied together and that somehow we must learn to understand each other's pain and help each other.


(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 17, 1957

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.