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Indy WWII refugee sends note to young Syrian boy

Posted at 10:06 PM, Mar 11, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- In the war-torn Middle East, a young man was touched by an act of kindness from 6,300 miles away.

A north-side Indianapolis physician wrote a letter to a 12-year-old Syrian boy who fled to Jordan to avoid ISIS and the civil war in Syria.

Dr. Joseph Wernicke said he wrote the letter because he was himself a post-WWII refugee who resettled in the U.S.

Wernicke's father was drafted to fight Hitler's war in the final days, before spending time as a political prisoner of Stalin's Russia. Upon his release, Wernicke, his two brothers and family boarded a troop ship for life in the U.S.

"Our life was difficult," Wernicke said. "We didn't really have much of anything. We lived in a barrack, and then a small apartment. It is what it is, and you make the best of what you have."

Wernicke was contacted by CARE, one of the oldest humanitarian organizations in the world, and was asked to write a letter to a young refugee like himself. He wrote a message of hope to 12-year-old Shadi, a young refugee from Syria.

"Keep going. Keep moving. Don't fail into despair," Wernicke wrote. "There is life beyond this. Don't give up and don't think the whole world hates you."

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