icon icon icon icon icon icon icon

CARE packages and courage

A portrait of an older woman sitting down in a green chair.

Photo credit: Areta Arlen

Photo credit: Areta Arlen

At the age of 7, Areta Arlen lived happily in Ukraine with her parents and younger sister. Areta’s mother was a teacher, and her father was a lawyer doing pro-bono work with imprisoned Ukrainians. Because of her father’s work, Areta’s family was on a list to be sent to Siberia by the Soviets, but when the Germans saw the family’s name on the list, death was also a possibility. With no other options, the family fled west to Slovakia, where they stayed for a year and a half before being moved to a labor camp in Austria. The family was then forced to do manual labor for two years during constant bombing. Receiving CARE packages while displaced helped keep Areta and her family fed, clothed and hopeful. Among the many items in the CARE packages, the “enormous” chocolate bars remain Areta’s favorite.

Ukrainian families were the majority in the labor camps. Banding together, they formed schools, scout programs and a community library to maintain a sense of belonging between displaced families. After several years wondering what their future would hold, and enduring the loss of her sister and father, Areta and her mother arrived on Ellis Island with minimal belongings, one of which was Areta’s violin. Not caring much for playing it, Areta’s mother insisted she keep practicing, reasoning that “proper ladies play an instrument” and seeing it as a way to hold on to the life they once had. While going through processing, a guard noticed the violin and asked Areta to play for him. Fearing it was a test for entry into the United States, Areta played what she could to satisfy the guard’s request. When finished, the guard smiled and nodded for the pair to proceed. Areta and her mother were free to begin their new life in an unknown land.

A photo of one of the original CARE Packages from 1948. In front of the box is a large bar of chocolate.
Among the many items in the CARE packages, the “enormous” chocolate bars remain Areta’s favorite.

Now retired from a long career with General Electric, Areta has settled in New York City. Having traveled extensively, Areta has experienced the wonders different countries and cultures have to offer. The chocolate Areta received in a CARE package ignited a love for decadence in her, and she remains eager to try new chocolates wherever she goes.

By joining the Thomas L. Williams Legacy Society, Areta has ensured a future where families like hers can partner with CARE to lift themselves out of poverty. When asked how she feels knowing the impact her gift will have, Areta stated, “It makes me grateful to have had the opportunity to reciprocate. Giving is more pleasurable than receiving.”

You can join Areta and others in establishing a legacy of helping future generations of families in need by leaving a beneficiary gift to CARE, or a gift in your will or trust. Learn more about the Thomas L. Willams Legacy Society at caresfuture.org.