SEPTEMBER 22, 1944
HYDE PARK, Thursday—Tuesday evening I went with Mrs. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., to Syracuse, where we spent the night. In the morning Mr. Joseph Smart called for us, and we went to Oswego to visit the refugee shelter where the United States is temporarily offering hospitality to 982 refugees from concentration camps in Italy. Our army there was glad to have them come to this country, and since Fort Ontario is not being used at present, they are housed there in soldiers' barracks. Partitions have been put up, affording them some privacy, but only the absolute necessities of life are being provided.
Forty-five cents a day per person is what is allowed for food. Regular iron cots and springs with cotton mattresses, army blankets, an occasional bare table and a few stiff chairs—this is the furniture of what must be considered a temporary home. Restrictions are plentiful, and there is much work to be done around the place; but at least the menace of death is not ever-present. They have elected a committee of their own which decides on questions concerning camp organization and direction, and they work closely with the camp director, Mr. Smart.
Oswego has an advisory committee that works with theirs, and they have set up recreation, education and business sections, so that both the shelter and the city may profit by their contacts. Volunteers come out to teach English; but since most of the people in the shelter are professional people and frequently have many talents, they, too, have much to offer to the community. After lunch, for instance, an opera singer from Yugoslavia sang for us, and I have rarely enjoyed anything more.
I was much touched by the flowers which were given me, and especially by some of the gifts, for these, in the absence of money, represented work. One talented young woman had put a great deal of work into her temporary home. Although clothes have to be hung on hooks in the wall, she had covered them with a piece of unbleached muslin, and up above had painted and cut out figures of animals, stars and angels, which were placed all over the plain surface to become a decorative wall covering.
Brightly colored pictures from magazines and papers had been cut out and pasted elsewhere on the walls, and colorful covers had been made for their beds. The effort put into it speaks volumes for what these people have undergone, and for the character which has brought them through. Somehow you feel that if there is any compensation for suffering, it must someday bring them something beautiful in return for all the horrors they have lived through.