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UALR magazine

Spring/Summer 2008 • Vol. springsummer No. 2008

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Family History Discovered

By Joan I. Duffy

Ivy Renfro: 'I found my grandma’s hometown where she was born and raised. I saw the one-room wooden church where she was baptized. I saw the house she grew up in, which was really cool. She had told me stories about hiding out up there and how her mother sold things on the black market to get ration cards.'

The universal raison d’etre for studying abroad is to expand one’s horizons. But UALR junior Ivy Renfro found herself and her roots during her experiences overseas in 2006.

The Malvern, Ark., native spent a month in Graz, Austria, as a UALR Donaghey Scholar. At the conclusion of the program, Renfro took a side trip to the Harz Mountains region of Germany where her grandmother survived the Nazi regime and wartime deprivation.

“She was from Braunlage and came to the United States after World War II,” Renfro recounted. “She had married an American soldier. As a consequence of her assimilating into America, she raised my mother and uncle in English.”

She added, “It was a lost language (German) for me so I was going to go abroad … to ground myself in the Germanic culture, which is extremely important to me.”

After her studies ended in Graz, Renfro took a side trip to Braunlage.

“I found my grandma’s hometown where she was born and raised. I saw the one-room wooden church where she was baptized,” she said. “I saw the house she grew up in, which was really cool. She had told me stories about hiding out up there and how her mother sold things on the black market to get ration cards.”

Renfro was able to bring back pictures of her pilgrimage to Braunlage to her grandmother, who lives in Malvern.

“It was awesome to be able to bring together a family tie with an academic experience,” Renfro said.