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Frankfort celebrates women with 3rd annual Expo

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BUSINESS WOMEN: The mother and daughter duo of Stellar Creations on Main, Crystal Reichert, left, and Linda Harrison speak with a customer at their booth at the Women’s Expo.
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MEETING EVA: Holocaust survivor Eva Kor signs a copy of her book book for young Heidi during Saturday's third-annual Women's Expo at the Frankfort Community Public Library.
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FULL HOUSE: Tickets for Eva Kor's presentation inside the Skanta Theatre sold out in 10 minutes.

By Leeann Doerflein - news@ftimes.com

Talks from three inspiration women drew several hundred women – and some men and children — to the Frankfort Community Public Library for the third annual Women’s Expo Saturday. Many attendees were Clinton County natives while others drove for miles to the event featuring Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, Mexico-born entrepreneur Rosa Gaeta Cornejo and Tipton author Janis Thornton.

Event organizer and Hubbard Center for Lifelong Learning Coordinator Jamie Anderson said this expo was the most well-attended yet, with around three times the number of attendees as the first expo. Anderson attributes that to the variety of speakers and women-owned vendors she was able to attract to the event.

The most well-attended talk of the day was Kor’s talk on surviving the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz and the four life lessons it taught her.

At five-years-old, Kor’s home country Romania was overtaken by Hungarian Nazi soldiers.

At 10-year-old, Kor’s family was uprooted from their home and thrown into a regional ghetto in an open field, with only a tent for shelter. Just a few weeks later, the family was forced into cattle cars for a long train ride to Auschwitz. At the camp, the family was separated, with Kor and her twin sister Miriam taken to join Nazi doctor Josef Mengele’s twin experiments and her parents and older siblings taken to die immediately in the gas chambers.

Kor said her own will to survive and the will to make sure her sister survived was what saw the two through months of experimentation and starvation.

“Dying in Auschwitz was very, very easy, but living was a full-time job,” Kor sad. “In my opinion, a person in Auschwitz needed two things to survive: a guardian angel and an unbelievable will to live.”

To this day, Kor does not know what Mengele hoped the experiments would accomplish, nor what she was routinely injected with. She does know the pain it caused and the lives the experiments claimed. After nine months of unforgettable misery, Kor, her sister and fellow survivors were finally liberated as Allied Forces swept through the area in January 1945.

Kor shared four lessons she hopes her story can teach the world.

The first lesson is that growing up is hard, whether a privileged child in the United States or a poor Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied Romania.

The second lesson is prejudice hurts everybody. She encourages all to make up their own mind and treat all with respect and fairness.

The third lesson is forgive your worst enemy. After being ripped from her family and tortured for nine months, Kor has found it in her heart to forgive a Nazi doctor who asked to meet with her. Through that meeting and his acknowledgment that working in Auschwitz haunted him, Kor learned to forgive one of the men who was responsible for the death of over one million in that camp alone.

“What I discovered was life changing; after all this time little Eva had the power to forgive. No one can give me that power, and no one can take it away,” Kor said. “To realize I had this power made me feel very good. I was free from Auschwitz and free from Mengele.”

The fourth lesson is the power of positive thought. Each morning Kor encouraged every audience member to think good thoughts to bring the change they want to see.

“If there was only one thing the people of Frankfort could remember I would want that to be nobody controls what they think,” Kor said. “Think good things and see what a change it brings in your life and the lives of people around you.”

With 200 available, tickets for the Kor talk were all handed out within 10 minutes. Though some were disappointed they couldn’t get in, Anderson was glad all were able to see the talk via WILO’s livestream on televisions around the library.

Even those who were unable to get seats for the talk, like Kathleen Rubio and her daughter Alicia, of Hartford City, were still able to watch the presentation and meet with Kor after the talk.

“I’m fascinated with World War II, and I loved hearing about how she survived,” Alicia said. “Hearing about this makes me want to do more as a woman myself.”

Kor was a draw but many also enjoyed Thornton’s and Cornejo’s presentations.

Dixie Ihnat and her husband came from Cicero to see their friend Thornton, but was impressed with the expo overall.

“It (the expo) is absolutely amazing,” Ihnat said. “I’m a friend of Janis and I’m familiar with that story but she did a really great job and having the other fellows here to back her up and expand.”