Georgette Hancock lives alone in Portland, Oregon, after her daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren recently moved away. But Georgette says the staff at Jewish Family & Child Service in Portland supports her and cares for her, with the funds it receives from the Claims Conference.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1936, Georgette was just 7 years old in mid-1944 when the Nazis started forcing Jewish families into “yellow star houses,” which crammed the entire Jewish population into selected buildings. Later that year, Georgette’s mother forged their papers to enable them to find refuge in one of 30 safe houses in Budapest under the protection of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. On the run, little Georgette cried when she had to leave behind her beloved doll. But the house at which they arrived was not taking children at that time, so Georgette and her cousin were sent to a children’s home under Swiss protection. There was no food or clothing in the children’s home, Georgette remembers. That December, Georgette’s mother smuggled the girl and her cousin out of town and into the woods. The next day, the children’s home was bombed and everyone perished.
They reached another safe-house but eventually the Nazis came there, too. Georgette and her mother hid for several days in the cellar, only finding out afterwards that all the Jews taken from the building were shot at the riverbank. They were eventually discovered by the Nazis and taken to the Budapest Ghetto. Once again little Georgette had to deal with the loss of a treasured object. “My father gave me a little ring, and then they collected all our belongings,” she recalled. “I was crying, I didn’t want to give the ring, and I looked into his eyes. And he says, ‘Okay, keep the ring.’ And my mother said, ‘No, no, no! Give it to him!’ She tore the ring off me. ‘Give it to him, because the next minute somebody else will shoot you that you didn’t give everything!’ ” They survived until the ghetto was liberated by the Soviet Army in January 1945.
Georgette came to the United States in 1956, eventually settling in Oregon in 2000. Divorced three times, Georgette, now 77 years old, lives alone. Her son and two daughters live on the East Coast and while they can’t visit often, they maintain a strong relationship with their mother.
Georgette suffers from osteoporosis, arthritis, thyroid issues, asthma and severe back pain, which makes many daily activities difficult. Without help from Jewish Family & Child Service in Portland (JFCS), through grants allocated by the Claims Conference, Georgette would truly be alone. She receives six hours of homecare per week, getting help with housekeeping activities, cooking and laundry; transportation to doctors’ appointments and other errands. She receives emergency financial assistance, and participates in monthly Café Europa programs, socialization groups for Holocaust survivors funded by the Claims Conference.
“The Claims Conference is so dedicated to fighting for compensation for this life-devastating act that has happened to the Jewish people. It is the least I can do to share my life story,” she says.
Georgette also heaps praise on those who use Claims Conference support to help her in Portland. “My family is my Jewish family. JFCS is my real family. And I truly feel it,” she says. About her homecare aide, Georgette says, “She’s special. She’s a very unique human being. Many of the people who work at JFCS are very awesome people.”