NORTH DARTMOUTH — The situation in the Ukraine currently has the attention of the entire world and, because of technology, the world is able to see and hear the effect this war has on the Ukrainian families and way of life. Journalists on the ground provide live information on the two million Ukrainian refugees who have fled the country for safety — never knowing if they will ever see their home, city, or other family members again.
The heartbreaking images of fathers sending their families away have captured the world and remain a visible sign of the reality and hardships of war. These same excruciating decisions were made by thousands of Jewish families during WWII when opportunities arose to send their children far away from the perils of the Nazi invasion.
Mona Golabek, whose mother was 14 when she was sent from Vienna to London on the Kindertransport, tells her mother’s amazing story of perseverance and triumph during one of history’s darkest times, all while pursuing her dream of becoming a concert pianist.
On March 11, the entire Diocese of Fall River Catholic Schools faculty, staff and school leaders had the privilege of hearing Golabek tell her mother’s story, adapted from her book, “The Children of Willesden Lane,” which recounts Lisa Jura’s journey from daily life in Vienna to the challenges of being a refugee in a new country. According to Mona, “I tell my mother’s story because I believe one story can change our lives and inspire us to do better and achieve the highest values within ourselves. When I was a little girl, my mother taught me to play the piano. During those lessons, she told me stories about her life and about the precious words her mother, my grandmother, said at the train station: ‘Lisa, hold on to your music. It will be your best friend and I will be with you always through the music.’”
“The timeliness of this story in light of current events could not be better, and no one could have foreseen the incredible gift of Mona’s story for our educators,” said Daniel S. Roy, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Fall River. “Despite human tragedy that has occurred throughout history, we need to focus on the stories that provide hope, resilience, and faith that inspire future generations.”
Golabek’s story was viewed via a pre-recorded performance on a large screen at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth and was followed by a 30-minute Q&A via Zoom directly with Golabek. Educators had an opportunity to ask questions about her mother’s experience, how music impacted Lisa’s ability to thrive in a foreign country, or any other relevant topic.
Students from the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools are invited to join Mona in her March 29 virtual performance as an additional learning opportunity. This 50-minute live-streamed event includes a theatrical performance and concert based on the best-selling book “The Children of Willesden Lane.”
More than one million students across the world have already experienced the Willesden READs program. During the event, students have opportunities to interact with the book’s author, performer, and virtuoso concert pianist Mona Golabek, who offers uplifting messages of resilience and hope for students at a time when they most need it.
To deepen student understanding of the historical context of the performance and “The Children of Willesden Lane” books, educators are invited to incorporate companion resources found in IWitness, USC Shoah Foundation’s educational website, into their teaching.
For more information, please go to www.CatholicSchoolsAlliance.org.