Retiree Adolphe Bernotas sees Statue of Liberty through refugee’s eyes

Adolphe refugee pic

The Bernotas family, shown in a refugee camp apartment in Munich around 1950. Retired Members Council Chair Adolphe Bernotas, is at the far left next to his mother.



Adolphe Bernotas, chair of the Guild’s Retired Members Council, penned a reflection for the Concord Monitor on his experience as a refugee who came to the U.S. as a “displaced person” after World War II.

“As I watch the desperate refugees on the evening news, I think: That’s us 70 years ago,” he wrote. “Same thing, same people. Lots of kindness, much xenophobia. Only the armies change.”

Bernotas recounted his reaction to statements by Pope Francis that he, too, was the child of immigrants. “It occurred to me that I was a foreigner before I was an American, a refugee before I became an immigrant, an immigrant before I became an American.”


And he recalled a time when at 13, two years after he’d arrived in the states, an adult told him that “DP” meant not “displaced person,” but “dirty pig. You f—ing people came here to take our jobs!”

“I recall that encounter every time politicians bash immigrants,” Bernotas wrote.

Bernotas told of commuting across the Hudson River from Manhattan to the Jersey Journal in the 1960s, and enjoying the views of the Statue of Liberty during the trip. “The attraction for Americans, especially immigrants and children of immigrants, to the Statue is equally obvious and mysterious,” he said. “She is not a mere cornball symbol that models for plastic statues and oil-on-velvet paintings. She has an appeal that’s philosophical, esthetic and visceral. She is not only the American, but also the singular universal symbol of all-embracing welcome.”

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