An excerpt from

Open Your Hearts: The Story of the Jewish War Orphans in Canada
by Fraidie Martz

Abe studied my face with a new concentration. One sign of false emotion on my part, I knew, would stop him in his tracks. He asked me to follow him to follow him down the hall to where a sturdy walnut sideboard with three deep-set drawers stood facing the front door. Bending to open the bottom drawer, Abe drew carefully from its safe corner a small square piece of thick, tattered paper. He held it in the palm of his hand examining it, seemingly unaware for the moment that he had brought it out to show to me. He handled it as if it were a living organism. He peered at it from one angle, then turned it around to inspect it from another pespective, as if it might have changed shape or grown since he saw it last. When I looked at the piece of rough paper, turned brittle and wrinkled, its once-black letters and numbers grey with age, I realized that for Abe, this was much more than an inanimate object. It was a cherished amulet that would never lose its lustre. Emedded within its cells, refracting the light like a sparkling diamond that no eyes but his could see, was freedom.

It brought to mind the hundreds of sad stories I had heard and read over the years about how one's life could depend on getting papers: the succession of crises in Europe-the revolutions, the wars, the pogroms, the imprisonments that forced people to flee for their lives. They had to have papers. My parents and their landsmen told stories about their flight from Europe to Canada at the turn of the century. For that they too had to have papers. Papers, papers, papers. You had to have papers to leave a place and to get into a new one, and often just to be allowed to live. There were never enough papers for everyone who wanted them, and there were always people who could take your papers away and you might never be seen or heard from again.