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Pearl Golacinski, mother who fought for son’s release during Iran hostage crisis, dies at 85

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Pearl Golacinski was at home in Silver Spring the morning of Nov. 4, 1979, when a State Department official called with the news that her oldest son had been taken hostage in Iran. Alan Golacinski, a civilian security officer, was one of more than 50 Americans captured earlier that day when revolutionary Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Over the next 14 months — the tumultuous period known as the Iran hostage crisis — Mrs. Golacinski became one of the most forceful advocates for the captives’ release. Fluent in Spanish and French, she traveled to Europe in April 1980 as an unofficial ambassador to rally support among world leaders.

As a mother, she was difficult to turn away. Mrs. Golacinski, another mother and two wives of hostages were received by leaders including French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing and Pope John Paul II. Mrs. Golacinski did not leave the Vatican until the pope had promised a special prayer for her son.

“All you can do is wait and hope,” she told The Washington Post four months into the ordeal. “You get up in the morning and you wonder.”

Her son was released along with the other hostages on Jan. 20, 1981, and reunited with his mother in the United States several days later.

Mrs. Golacinski, 85, died May 13 at her home in Silver Spring. She had complications from Alzheimer’s disease, said her son, Alan.

Pearl Abecassis was born Aug. 19, 1926, in Casablanca, Morocco. She met her husband, Anthony F. Golacinski, when he was deployed to North Africa with the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. They married in Casablanca in 1949 and soon moved to the United States, settling in Silver Spring. Mrs. Golacinski became an American citizen in 1952.

In 1965, her husband died of a heart attack while on an Air Force assignment in Spain. Mrs. Golacinski found a job as an elementary school French teacher in the Montgomery County Public Schools, where she taught for about 15 years.

Throughout the hostage crisis, Mrs. Golacinski granted interviews to French media outlets, including the newspaper Le Monde. She wanted the hostages to be “uppermost” in people’s minds across the world, said her daughter, Danielle Golacinski, “not just in the United States.”

Survivors include five children, Alan Golacinski of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Michael Golacinski of Manhattan Beach., Calif., and Gary Golacinski, Danielle Golacinski and Linda Harris, all of Silver Spring; three brothers, Marc Abecassis of Rockville and Albert Abecassis and Victor Abecassis, both of Montreal; two sisters, Ricci Abecassis of Phoenix and Celia Abecassis of Malaga, Spain; and two grandchildren.

In an interview after his mother’s death, Alan Golacinski said his return to the United States after the hostage crisis was “all a blur.” He did remember, however, the first sight of his mother.

“It was glorious,” he said. “I can’t say much more than that.”

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