Sharing the heart of Europe
By Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert
42d Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Eva Newman, First White House of the Confederacy Receptionist, poses in front of the First White House of Confederacy while working at the museum in Montgomery, Alabama. Newman became fascinated with the history of the house and its role in the Civil War and began working there to share its history with others. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert)
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, ALa. — Guests gather around First White House of Confederacy receptionist, Eva Newman as she tells the stories of the house. Her bright blue eyes light up with excitement at the chance to share her knowledge of the house and its role in the Civil War. She wears a bright welcoming smile and her patriotism shines through as she speaks, however, a strong accent suggest that she once hailed from another country. Newman loves to America’s story, but she too has a story of her own to tell. Her journey began 78 years ago in the Czech Republic.
In 1937, Newman was born in Czech Republic during the occupation of Nazi forces.
“I had a childhood, but the only emotion I had was fear,” said Newman. “I was afraid to go to school because of the bombings, afraid of going hungry and afraid that my father would be arrested for something.”
In 1948, her father made the decision for the family to escape the country and made their way across the border into Austria, but the authorities quickly caught up with them.
Her father was taken with the other men to become re-educated while her mother and her siblings were locked away in a large cell with 500 other women and children.
After three months of being in an insect infested cell with little food, all 500 prisoners were rounded up and taken downstairs where they were ordered to remove their clothing.
Spigots were lowered down and all the women slammed their bodies against the floor to shield the children from what they believed to be gas, but it was only water.
During one shower, the gate behind them didn’t click. At the young age of 12, Newman was ordered by her mother to squeeze through the gate opening and retrieve her clothes. Her mother and siblings followed and they made their way through an empty hallway with a door waiting for them at the end.
They pushed through the door not knowing if it would lead them to freedom or right back into captivity. They landed in the middle of downtown Budapest and hurriedly made their way to the train station
After begging for passage on a train, they ended in Vienna, Austria where they reunited with her Father.
They were then put into a deportation camp and awaited approval to immigrate to America. After two and a half years permission was granted, and they immigrated to the United States.
In 1951, the family arrived in New Orleans and relocated to Iowa to begin a new life, where her father eventually opened a bakery.
After high School graduation, Newman wanted to further her education at the Art Institute in Chicago; however, her father had another idea.
In 1957, at 18-years old, she was put on a plane to Austin, Texas with nothing but a wedding dress and $5 in her pocket, to meet the man she was arranged to marry.
Waiting for her at the airport was a man that her father met while in an Austrian displacement camp, named Frank Newman.
They were married immediately. After two months of being married, Frank, who just enlisted into the United States Army, was called to serve 18 months in Korea.
“He said, Eva I have to take you back to live with your parents. I have to go to Korea, and I don’t want you here in Texas alone,” said Eva. “I started crying, ‘I don’t want to go home, I’ll have to work in the bakery again!”
When he returned, the couple began their military life, moving from base-to-base . Over the next six years, Frank and Eva became the parents of three children; life was good for the Newman family.
However, in 1970, the family was ripped a part by the death of Frank while serving in the Vietnam War.
Frank Newman’s last assignment was at the International Officer School as the Czech Republic advisor at Maxwell Air Force Base. After he passed, Eva decided to stay in Montgomery and raise her children. She felt like she needed to learn more about the history in her new home in the South, so she began volunteering at the White House of Confederacy.
“When Frank died, I absolutely had to influence the young people about patriotism and the honor of it in our flag and what it means to us as a nation,” she said. “That’s what I started doing [then] and that is what I do to this day.”
One day while working at the White House of Confederacy, Eva was surprised to see a Czech Republic officer walk in who was attending Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base. .
“I never believed the day would come that I would have Czech Republic officers walk in… Frank never got to finish what he started so I had to sponsor and teach these Czechs,” said Eva Newman.
In 2002, Newman became a Goodwill Ambassador, a program created by the International Officers School at Air University that supports international officers and their families while they are attending school at Maxwell. Over the next nine years she sponsored a total of 55 Czech Republic International Officer School students.
Newman’s dedication and service was acknowledged August 8, 2015, when she was awarded the Czech Republic Medal of Merit by the Czech Republic Defense Attaché Brig. Gen. Jiri Verner.
Eva Newman was recognized for her love and loyalty to her mother country through the work she did at IOS, however, Eva never forgot the blood and tears that went into immigrating to America and the chance of a new life that it gave her.
“She has earned the right to become an American, she really gives you a sense of patriotism, when you think of someone who is from a different country and is more patriotic than you, it really stirs you up inside,” said Henry Howard, White House of Confederacy tour guide.
Newman’s love and pride for her country shows through to the people she meets and reminds others what it means to be a proud American.
“We gave everything, our heritage and our language for an intangible called freedom, and it is my upmost obligation to give until my last breath to a nation that so graciously adopted us,” said Newman.