Letter from Gunta Semba:
I have been a supporter of LIRS for many years. This past Sunday I attended a Ladies’ Aid conference and there was made very aware of my history with IRO, LWF, and my arrival in NYC in December 1949.
I was 14 years old. My father, my mother and I had been sponsored by a farmer in Lancaster Co. PA! As we passed thru the lines of Document checkpoints, and more lines to claim our baggage, we were approached by women with Lutheran labels — they had lists of arrivals, arranged in alphabetical order and each family was “claimed” by some friendly greeter. She arranged for our box to be delivered to the baggage car, hailed a taxi and took us to Penn Station; bought the tickets handed us sandwiches, gave my father tickets to Lancaster, PA. Told us that we’d be met there by our sponsor, Mr. Huffingle and she accompanied us to the platform for our trip. We were so very grateful for her help, without which we would have been totally lost and desperate.
Another calming moment on the dock, was when we were greeted in Latvian by the minister of the Latvian Church in NY, the Rev. Richard Zarius, who reassured us that we would not be alone in this land. Rev. Zarius gave us his address. So did the lady from Lutheran Refugee Service. She called us, and wrote to us several times during the first year we were on the farm in Lancaster County.
Mr. Huffingle had learned about the Displaced Persons in camps in Germany who needed to be resettled by the Allies. The Germans did not have the means to support all the refugees. It had taken 5 years for the International Refugee Organization to work out a plan for relocating all those millions of homeless people. The ELCA had asked members of their congregations to find possible sponsors. The Grace Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA found sponsors for more than 10 families. One of those refugees is now the Emer. Rev. Dr. Aroids Ziedonis.
Sincerely, Gunta Semba
We are grateful for folks like Mr. Huffingle who acted when they felt called to serve others. The compassion of sponsors and donors like you helped us serve more than 500,000 refugees and immigrants since we began 75 years ago.