From the young age of 9 on the Aegean island of Rhodes, Clara Barki started writing to her uncle Ralph and aunty Rachel Capeluto in the far-away place known as Seattle, Wash. This smart and determined young woman, who was always at or near 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 more than 60 years after they were written and after she, Ralph and Rachel had passed away. Preserved and translated from Ladino into English, they paint a vivid and detailed 16-year story of how one family triumphed and survived after they became refugees and rode the roller coaster of successes and failures to legally win permission to immigrate to the United States.
This compelling story of perseverance, determination, love and grit is brought to life in A Hug From Afar, a historical narrative nonfiction memoir that journalist Cynthia Flash Hemphill has edited and compiled based on the letters written by her mother Clara Barki (aka Barkey) from 1930 to 1946. "A Hug from Afar reads like a suspense novel–only it’s a true story, and it feels as though it’s your family caught up in a tale of hope and fear, frustration and happiness, family ties that reach across continents and over decades, and an American immigration bureaucracy working to make family reunification as difficult as possible,