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With only three full time staff members operating out of a 700-square space, the Blue Card manages to spread awareness, provide financial assistance, and essentially serve as a lifeline for many survivors. The Blue Card is a four-star charity that is recognized by Charity Navigator. It is also accredited by the Better Business Bureau, and is recognized for its efficiency and low overhead.
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An interview with Irene Hizme, a Holocaust survivor who benefits from The Blue Card (Mrs. Hizme and her twin brother were experimented on in Auschwitz).
Where and when were you born?
“I was born in 1937 in Czechoslovakia.”
Can you share anything about your experiences during the Holocaust?
“When my family and I were deported to Auschwitz we remained together for a few months after which my brother and I were separated from our mother. Shortly thereafter they split my brother and me up too. It was later that I learned that the group we were originally with, including my mother, were murdered. I remember going to Mengele and hearing my brother cry. I was terrified.”
How did you start your life again after the Holocaust?
“I was in an orphanage in France when I was chosen by Rescue Children to come to America to help raise funds. I was adopted by an incredibly caring family, and that is when my life in America began.”
Did you have financial struggles?
“I did not have any financial struggles until 1987 when I was diagnosed with MS and could no longer work.”
Were you receiving any sort of help from the government or anywhere else before The Blue Card?
“The Blue Card was the only organization that offered to help me.”
When and how did you find out about The Blue Card?
“Dr. Judith Kestenberg spoke about me with Florence Smeraldi, the executive director of The Blue Card at the time.”
Was it difficult to reach out and ask for help?
“It was a low point in my life, but as it turned out, Florence reached out to me and sensed my reluctance to ask for help. She intuitively understood my needs as I became wheelchair-bound. She provided me with financial and emotional support.”
How has this organization helped you?
“They immediately helped with a monetary stipend for household finances and specialized equipment. As my needs grew they have continued to make sure that I have a good quality of life. The highest form of charity is to enable a person to be productive. In spite of my shaky hands and inability to commit to a time frame, since every day with MS is a unique challenge, Elie Rubinstein took a leap of faith and provided me with the opportunity to use my calligraphic skills to create cards, notes and award certificates for The Blue Card. Masha Pear has continued in this path and this is a life-sustaining gift to me.” How do you feel in today’s society as a survivor?
“I feel apprehensive and fear for my grandchildren who will soon be entering universities where anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing is rampant. I am afraid that the world is on fire.”
What can you tell other survivors out there who are embarrassed to ask for help?
“Don’t be embarrassed, The Blue Card wants to help you. They will treat you with the utmost dignity while providing you with the assistance you need. They will become your family. They cherish Holocaust survivors.”