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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Speaker Talks About Surviving WWII

As her parents tried to escape invading German soldiers in the Ukraine, Lilian Gordon’s mother gave birth to her in a cattle car bound for Siberia.

Her father was not there to help. He’d been drafted into the Soviet Army. The only way her mother could get through it, was “attitude and adaptability.”

“Her attitude was ‘No matter what it takes to keep my baby alive, I’ll do it,’” Gordon said during a speaking event at Alvin Community College on February 16. “That’s how she saved my life.”

Gordon, a Russian Jew, was born while her family fled Nazi-occupied Ukraine. She spent the rest of World War II living in a work camp in Siberia. She spoke at the Nolan Ryan Center about her experiences.

Gordon’s visit coincides with the ACC Study Abroad Program, a yearly opportunity for students to travel to foreign destinations as part of their educational experience. This year, the Study Abroad Program will explore Eastern Europe with a nine-day trip to Prague, Badupest, Krakow, Auschwitz and Vienna.

Surviving in the work camps was difficult, she said. Gordon contracted meningitis when she was a year old but managed to survive.

When they returned to the Ukraine after the war, Gordon said her family struggled to make a living. Several thousand Jews in their city had been murdered by the Nazis.

“My mother didn’t know anybody,” she said. “There was no one left.”

While it was tough to survive after the war, Gordon said she had one happy memory of meeting her father for the first time—when she was four years old.

“We were so grateful to be alive,” she said. “We were so grateful to have a roof over our heads.”

Her family eventually would leave the Ukraine and then make the dangerous journey to cross the border from East Germany to West Germany. From there they emigrated to the United States.

“If we would have stopped, our lives would have been in peril,” she said. “We were lucky.”

Much of the reason her family was able to thrive in the United States was through adapting and attitude. If she people took away anything from her story, she hoped it would be that they should love their country.

“The will to live a better life is why we came here,” she said. “Love your country. Enjoy your country.”

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