The entire community is invited to “An Evening with Sonia Hochman” on Sunday, Feb. 10, 6:30 p.m., at the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables. She will share the remarkable story of her family’s strength, perseverance and survival in an underground cave to evade being caught by pursuing Nazis during World War II.
A New York detective exploring some of the world’s longest caves in southwestern Ukraine in the 1990s found something strange and mysterious: a shoe, a bowl, a comb, a key, old buttons and some writing on the wall.
There were rumors that Jews had sheltered there during the Holocaust, and soon the explorer, Chris Nicola, was on a mission to uncover their harrowing story. He located 14 of the original 38 cave dwellers and shared their story of courage in The Secret of Priest’s Grotto – A Holocaust Survival Story, co-authored with Peter Lane Taylor. A docudrama was produced called No Place on Earth.
One of those who took refuge in the cave, Sonia Hochman, will share her experience of survival as a child. She will give an introduction to the film, which tells of the five Ukrainian Jewish families, led by matriarch Esther Stermer, who created their own society to escape the Holocaust. While the men collected food and supplies and chopped firewood at night, the women and girls remained in the cave, surviving 511 days underground — longer than anyone in recorded history. Sixty-seven years later, Nicola led four of the survivors back to “thank” the cave.
To this day, Hochman still gets teary when recalling the family she lost, especially her father and grandparents. But telling the story is imperative to prevent tragedies like the Holocaust from happening again, she said.
“I owe it to the children who didn’t survive,” Hochman said. “My father would want me to tell this story.”
A recent study shows that Americans are forgetting about the Holocaust and a fifth of millennials aren’t sure if they’ve ever heard of the Holocaust. “It’s a must for people to remember,” said Chany Stolik, one of the organizers of the event. The millions killed live through the survivors, she said, and “once they are gone they must not be forgotten.
“We are painfully aware that this is the last generation of Holocaust survivors who can tell their stories,” Stolik said.
“Transmitting those stories becomes increasingly difficult in a world without survivors. How poignant it is for us to know survivors who have defied Hitler’s plans with extraordinary courage and dignity despite overwhelming loss and pain.”
The program will take place at the Shalala Student Center, 1330 Miller Dr. in Coral Gables. Film screening of No Place on Earth will be preceded by an introduction by Hochman and followed by Q&A.
The event is open to the public. To RSVP, visit hochman.eventbrite.com. For more information call 305-490-7572.
Admission is $15 in advance; $20 at the door. Student admission is free.