Photo: Liz Maney

Sarah S.

Present-day Romania/Ukraine-USA; Norway & France/Germany-USA

24, Dancer, Writer, Arts Administrator
New York, NY

My mother’s family came from the former Bucovina region between Romania and the Ukraine to Brooklyn and Pittsburg and my father’s family came from parts of France, Norway and Germany to become farmers in Kansas and Missouri. My parents left their families for school in New Mexico, where I was born and raised. Just as important in understanding our journey to the US is understanding what happened to those who couldn’t make the journey. I’m named for Selma, my grandmother’s first cousin who stayed in Bucovina (modern day Ukraine) and was a poet. Selma was sent to a labor camp from which she smuggled her book of poetry out before being murdered at age 18. The miraculous survival of her poetry--which mostly uses nature as allegory for fear, devastation, deep love and hope--assures her survival, and has been a guiding light for me since they were translated into English ten years ago. Her poems offer me the conviction that creativity persists over hatred.

Why did your family come to the United States? As socialist Jews, my mother’s family left to escape anti-Jewish pogroms, while those who stayed later perished in the Holocaust, and my father’s family left for better economic opportunity.

What would the U.S. be missing out on if you or your people were banned? From the beets from our farm to the beats playing in our kitchen, if our people were banned, the U.S. would miss a family committed to the joy of community and the pleasure of sharing what sustains us in spirit and body.