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Vakar family collection

Document | Accession Number: 2016.389.1

The Vakar family papers consist of correspondence, memoirs, manuscripts, news clippings, postcards, and other documents and materials related to the immigration of the Vakar family from France to the United States in 1940-1941, as well as the role of the American aid workers who helped them, Martha and Waitstill Sharp. Collection includes postcards and correspondence from the period of their immigration, later memoirs written by various members of the family recounting their experiences during their escape and their arrival in the United States, as well as news clippings and other material from later commemorations of the Sharps' activities, including a reunion in 1990 of those who were saved by their actions.

Material from the period of the family’s emigration includes family photographs, documents of Nicholas Vakar, including his safe-conduct pass from 1940 and writers union membership card, the Unitarian Service Committee application used by Catherine Vakar that enabled her to leave France with the group of children assembled by Martha Sharp, a letter from Catherine Vakar to her mother, which was sent from Portugal, as well as correspondence to and from Nicholas and Gertrude Vakar. Among the latter there are letters that the Vakars sent to the Atkinsons and other benefactors in the United States, both prior to and after their departure from France, a telegram and letter from Kerr Atkinson related to the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Vakar in the United States, and letters from family friend Boris Pross, related to his activities in dissolving their apartment in Saint-Mandé. The Atkinsons also kept a small diary or notebook related to the arrival of the Vakar daughters at their home in January 1941, and a few pages from that are included in this collection.

Later material includes typescript essays written by various members of the Vakar family, including accounts by Nicholas and Gertrude of their passage from France to the United States, and essays written in later years by Anna and Catherine describing their own voyage to the United States, and their early months living with the Atkinson family. A letter from 1974 by Boris Pross, addressed to Anna, describes his role in selling the family’s apartment and belongings in 1940, and a compilation of the poetry of Gertrude Vakar, gathered and published by Catherine in 1984, is also included. During the 50th anniversary commemoration of the founding of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee in 1989-1990, there were several events in and around Boston remembering their work, including a reunion with Martha Waitstill Cogan and the surviving adult children she had brought to the United States, and material from these events, including the text of a speech by Catherine Vakar Chvany, is included. Also included is later material, dating from 2007-2009, about a proposed documentary film by Artemis Joukowsky, the grandson of the Sharps, which was eventually released as a documentary produced by Ken Burns in 2016.

inclusive:  1925-2013
1 box
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Catherine V. Chvany
Record last modified: 2021-11-16 09:41:29
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