From a young age on the Aegean island of Rhodes, Claire Barkey started writing to her Uncle Ralph and Aunty Rachel Capeluto in the faraway place known as Seattle, WA. This smart and determined young woman, always at the top of her class, used the dying language of Judeo-Spanish, or Ladino, to report news of the relatives Ralph left behind on Rhodes and the happenings of her Sephardic Jewish community.
But what started as friendly letters quickly turned to desperate pleas for help as life for the Jews of Rhodes deteriorated under the control of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who allied with Adolph Hitler.
Forgotten and never thought of again, Clara’s letters turned up 60 years after she and her devoted correspondents had passed away. Preserved and translated from Ladino into English, they paint a vivid and detailed story of how one family triumphed and survived after they became refugees, riding the roller coaster of successes and failures toward legal immigration to the United States.