Saul Stermer: Esther and Zaide Stermer had 3 boys and 3 girls. Saul is their middle son and the heroic carpenter in NO PLACE ON EARTH. After their remarkable survival in caves for 511 days, the Stermer family tried to pick up their lives in Ukraine but continued post-war violence against Jews forced them to leave in 1946 and make their way to the safety of a DP (Displaced Persons) Camp in Germany. Saul and his older brother Nissel (now deceased) were allowed to immigrate to Canada posing as tailors (they paid someone to take the tailor exam for them!) Once in Canada, they founded a very successful construction company in Montreal. Nissel died in 2003, but the vibrant Saul, at age 92, still goes to work where he shares the helm with Nissel’s son.
Saul has three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Saul’s wife Czarna, the love of his life, died several years ago after more than 60 years of marriage. She, too, was a Holocaust survivor from southwest Ukraine, who survived living in the forest and by being hidden by a Ukrainian family.
Sam Stermer: At age 86, Sam is the “baby” of the Stermer family and Saul’s younger brother. Sam left the German DP Camp after his older brothers, initially for the US but went on to Montreal, Canada to be nearer his family. Like his brothers, he also worked in construction (now retired.) Sam, a grandfather, says he is eagerly awaiting his first great-grandchild. This year he and his wife, Bella, celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary. Bella, is also a Holocaust survivor from Ukraine, where she lost most of her family in the war and does not speak about her experiences.
Sonia Dodyk: 79-year-old Sonia is the daughter of Fischel Dodyk and Henia Stermer; Henia is Saul and Sam’s oldest sister. The brothers Nissel, Saul and Sam are Sonia’s uncles. About six months after Liberation before they fled to the German DP camps, Sonia’s father Fischel was tragically killed in the continued violence against Jews. Sonia and her younger sister, Sima, feel the loss of their adored father to this day. At age 14, Sonia immigrated to New York by herself. Just a teen, she remembers standing on the ship’s deck and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Sonia went onto marry Harold Hochman, also a Holocaust survivor from Ukraine, who lost almost all of his family in the war. Today they live on Long Island, NY where Harold, now retired, ran a meat company. They have three children and three grandchildren.
Sima Dodyk: 74-year-old Sima is Sonia’s younger sister and only sibling. Like Sonia, she still grieves the tragic murder of her father 6 months after the war’s end. From the German DP she immigrated to New York with her mother, Henia, and heroic grandmother, Esther, shortly after Sonia made her way to the US alone. Sima ultimately moved to Montreal where she married David Blitzer, a Holocaust survivor who has family that survived the war in eastern Russia. Sima has two daughters, six grandchildren and is waiting on great-grandchildren.