The humorist and long-time radio host of NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion,” Garrison Keillor, begins his weekly monologue: “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” Which is an invitation to accompany him on an imaginary journey through the lives of Norwegian farmers and the locals of his make-believe home town.
Those of us who listen to these broadcasts connect with the characters and plots of their lives. For example, like the folk living on the edge of the prairie, my family came to America as refugees from a postwar Germany in 1952. I was never quite sure if we were refugees or immigrants.
Last week I received an email attachment from a Lutheran pastor in Germany who took great pains to locate me, not on the edge of the prairie but on the edge of the Atlantic. The attachment was a letter that my father had written to the pastor in Germany, a few months after our arrival in America. In the introduction, the pastor explained that he had found the letter in the church archives and wanted to know if he had permission to publish it as a way to help his congregation to address the present refugee crisis in his community.
My father titled his letter of 64 years ago, “A Refugee Writes Home.”
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I now share this story with you because not only were we welcomed when we arrived here in 1952, only seven years after the war’s end, we soon assimilated and had opportunity that we never could have back in Germany at that time.
So why are we now building walls and threatening to send refugees who don’t look like us or worship like us back to where they came from? There will be those who read this who will say, but these are different times, etc.
Yes, it has been another quiet week in our little town on the edge of the Atlantic, where “all the women are strong, the men are kind and the children are above average.”
Hartmut Fege, Pawleys Island