OSWEGO – While we read about the refugee crisis in the media today, many don’t realize that the issue of refugees was very much alive in Oswego in the mid-1940s with nearly 1,000 European refugees living at Fort Ontario.
Those days and the lives of some of the refugees living in the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter are brought to the stage in Rick Sivers’ new drama, “Dawn of Freedom,” produced in conjunction with the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum and the Oswego Players.
Performances are scheduled in the Frances Marion Brown Theater of the Oswego Civic Arts Center at Fort Ontario Park, Oct. 8 and 9.
Sivers writes a summary of the refugee crisis in the closing moments of the play:
“It is true, there have always been refugees. Those at Fort Ontario are but one small chapter in the history books. Yet the lessons of those times remain the same: humanity can only survive if it embraces the diversity within itself, helps the helpless, gives homes to the homeless and fosters a new page in civilization’s mark toward a future of promise.”
The play brings to life a glimpse into what it was like to live in the shelter from the perspective of 10 of the refugees.
The play includes moments of joy and sadness and an overall experience of encountering people from history and how their lives impact our lives today.
Sivers based the script on his research of museum records about the lives of the refugees.
“Growing up in Oswego, I was a generation out from knowing the refugees, but over a decade ago while serving the Minetto United Methodist Church I became good friends with Walter Greenburg, one of the refugees. When I retired and returned to Oswego, I wanted to do something to help others get to know the refugees. I approached the Safe Haven museum board and asked if I could write a play using the words of the refugees to bring them to life for this generation and beyond. They agreed and I read through the museum files, notes from refugees and put together the script,” said Sivers.
“Dawn of Freedom” will be performed on Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 9 at 2 p.m.
Included in the cast are Noah Pauldine, Jeffery Cole, Alexa Halstead, Brienna Pauldine, Bobby Fontana, Marianne Natoli, Kristie Pauldine, Marilyn Dirk, Ken Snow and Pablo Mendoza.
Reservations for the play can be made by calling the Players’ box office at 343-5138.