Freyberger Gallery holds “Stories of Immigrants and Refugees”

The Freyberger Gallery will host a special event, ?Stories of Immigrants and Refugees: An Evening of Compassion,? on Thursday, February 4, 2015, at 6 p.m. This event is being held in conjunction with the exhibition Eye of the Collector: The Jewish Vision of Sigmund R. Balka, which opens on January 21. Both events are free and open to the public and light refreshments will be served.

?Stories of Immigrants and Refugees: An Evening of Compassion? will include a presentation by Austra Gaige, a licensed family counselor and refugee from Latvia who will discuss her family?s struggle to come to the United States. The event will also include poetry readings and stories by faculty and students from the college.

Gaige was born in Latvia six months before the start of World War II. Latvia was occupied by Russian troops within the year, followed by three years of German occupation. She and her family spent a year on the refugee trail, often hungry and, at times, dodging bombs. Her family connected with a United Nations sponsor in the United States, and they went to live and work on his Mississippi cotton farm in May 1949.

?We needed to work for him for two years in exchange for his sponsorship,? recalls Gaige. ?Our home was a shack on stilts, a far cry from the comfortable, self-sufficient farm in Latvia. My parents were never bitter about our fate, attributing our survival to God?s grace. They taught us gratitude, the value of hard work, honesty, and dignity.?
After that, the family moved to Connecticut, which she remembers looked more like Latvia than Mississippi. Her parents rebuilt their lives and went on to send three daughters through college.

Gaige earned a master?s degree in counseling at Brown University. She works as a therapist specializing in family counseling. Previously, she and her late husband, Dr. Frederick Gaige, Penn State Berks CEO Emeritus, traveled to Nepal on a Fulbright fellowship, which culminated in the publication of Regionalism and National Unity in Nepal. It was reprinted in 2009 as part of a ?Classics in Nepali Social Studies? series.

In addition to Gaige?s presentation, the event will include a poetry reading by Dr. Ken Fifer, Professor of English at Penn State Berks; and the viewing of the HBO documentary One Survivor Remembers, about Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann, and an open discussion with Dr. Thomas Lynn, Associate Professor of English at Penn State Berks. Invited student guests will also share their stories.

The exhibition Eye of the Collector: The Jewish Vision of Sigmund R. Balka will run from January 21?March 3, 2016. This multi-venue exhibition highlights the collection of Sigmund Balka, who gathered more than 200 works of art over the course of five decades and gifted them to the Hebrew Union College?Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City.

The Freyberger Gallery is open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. For more information, contact Marilyn Fox, Gallery Director, at 610-396-6140 or via e-mail at [email protected].