Sophie Turner Zaretsky

Sophie Turner-Zaretsky – The Bear called ‘Refugee’

Turner-Zaretsky.Photo.A1.WEB Turner-Zaretsky.Photo.A2.WEB “In September 1939, when I was two years old, the Germans invaded Poland from the west while the Soviets invaded from the east and Lvov fell under Soviet control.

In 1941 the Germans occupied Lvov.  On the day of my fifth birthday, my father disappeared.  My mother and I moved to a small town called Busko-Zdroj. She told me my name was Zofia Tymejko, that we were Catholic, and warned me: “Never tell anyone we’re from Lvov, never talk to strangers.” We became practicing Catholics.  One day at school, my teacher said Germans and Jews were bad–the Germans because they killed Poles, the Jews because they killed Jesus.  I asked Mother; she said she knew some Jews and they weren’t all bad.”

After the war ended, Selma and her mother immigrated to England.  There, Selma learned that she was Jewish.  She adopted the name Sophie Turner.  She eventually became a doctor, and settled in America in 1963.


In 2006, a replica of the bear “Refugee” was taken up on the Space Shuttle Discovery by Commander Mark Polansky.

“… after the war, Sophie received a small stuffed bear (about three inches high) as a present from her mother. She named it “Refugee,” just like she and her mother were refugees of the war.  For 50 years the bear stayed with Sophie Turner-Zaretsky. In 2006, Commander Mark Polansky took a replica of the bear “Refugee” along with an image of a Darfurian child on the Space Shuttle Discovery to show a timely reminder of history’s relevance. “Although we can send people into space, we still can’t seem to stop them from hating and killing one another. A child’s stuffed toy from the Holocaust and a photograph of a refugee from the genocide today in Darfur remind us the lessons of the Holocaust have yet to be learned.”

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