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"Walking Towards America" Features Work of Three Remarkable Women

Ilga Vise is a longtime Springfield resident and community volunteer with a riveting refugee story. As a child, she and her family fled their homeland of Latvia during World War II.

Her story, at times harrowing, at times humorous, was captured years ago for the Ethnic Life Stories Project. Ilga’s story and others are collected in a volume that’s available in local schools and libraries, and in the Library’s digital collection at

On July 14 and 15, you can see Ilga’s story performed on stage at the Library Center. It’s a special engagement to benefit the Library Foundation.

Ilga’s story comes to life through a one-woman script, “Walking Toward America,” written by Sandy Asher, former Springfield resident and a popular author of children’s and young-adult books and plays. Sandy wrote the script based on Ilga’s Ethnic Life Story and her memoirs.

Former Springfieldian Annie Meek Montgomery, a New York actress with family ties here, portrays the young Ilga during her courageous journey “walking toward America.” Ilga and Sandy will be at both performances, as well.

Sandy had gripping material to work with. In one passage of Ilga’s memoir dated December 1944, “…The soldiers ordered us to walk to the hangar. We passed a barracks, which was cornered off by more barbwire. Arms reached through the wire, women in raggedy clothes, hollow eyed and skeleton thin, begged to us for food. On their tattered coats was sewn the yellow Star of David. It was a horrific moment. If anyone wondered what the future held, it was in front of us, written on the faces of those women. We were all captives, imprisoned under the rule of men with guns.…”

As a testament to Sandy’s script, “Walking Toward America” was chosen for development at New York University’s New Plays for Young Audiences workshop at the Provincetown Playhouse in 2011, a Friday Night Footlights reading at the Dramatists Guild in May 2012 and a world premiere full production at The Open Eye Theater on Memorial Day weekend 2012.

The performances are at 7 p.m. July 14 and 2 p.m. July 15 in the Library Center auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students in grades 5-12. Proceeds will benefit the Library Foundation. For more information, call Foundation Director Valerie Richardson at 616-0586.

Underwriters for "Walking Toward America" include Empire Bank, Kwen and Cheryl Griffeth, and David and Sandy Harrison.


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