Komi’s Northern Lights

Junia Ancaya

When we see what is happening in Yemen and Ukraine, we sometimes feel that more human suffering is taking place now than the world has ever seen before. And that’s not true. Most of us are old enough to remember WW II as having been a recent event when we were children. Some of us experienced it. The horrors taking place now are real but not unique.

Junia Ancaya and her family suffered the brutalities of both the Soviets and the Nazis during that dreadful time, and she has written about it in two books she’s published and here in OLLI Connects. In this issue she adds another chapter to her family’s saga.

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Not in America ?

Joan Weaving

On Monday, September 29th 1941 at 8am, Shepsa and Sura Gershunovich appeared at the corner of Melnikiva and Dokterivskaya streets in Kiev Russia, as ordered by the town police.

Shepsa and Sura were decent, God-fearing Russians who worked hard, and followed the laws of Torah. They raised children, eked out a living, and believed that God would provide. They were my great grandparents.

At 9 am, along with over 30,00 other “Yids” who had gathered as ordered, they were marched to Babi Yar, a huge ravine north of the city. They were stripped of their clothes and belongings and layered like plywood into the ditch. Then they were systematically shot to death and buried beneath the rubble. By 8 pm, all the “Yids” were dead.

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A Foxhole Conversation

Bruce Zimmerman

Scene: September 1944, somewhere in eastern Netherlands. Two American soldiers dig in their positions in preparation for Operation Market Garden, a bold effort to push into German territory just three months after the Normandy invasion….. 

“These hills are kind’a rough Frank. They seem to drop that artillery right down your neck—”

“Aw, we got it easy. I heard the jokers in Company ‘C’ are really having a rough time—watch it Joe…shelling again.”

“Yeh, we got it easy—just like riding a log down Niagara Falls. Say, how about that picture of that doll of yours? Where did ya’ ever hook up with a trick like that? She your steady?”

“More than that me lad. Keep yer head down, and I’ll give ya the story of Audrey G.—the sweetest little girl in all of Brooklyn ….,     

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Remembering a Great American

Don Menzel

Oh, I’m not talking about a President or famous patriot. Oh no, I’m remembering an ordinary farm boy who knew his duty and joined up to bring the tyrant Hitler and the Japanese militarists to their knees in WWII.

Do you remember December 7, 1941? Probably not unless you are over 90 years of age. I was 28 months old, so my memory is lacking. But soon after that horrific event, the United States declared war on Japan and Germany. And then an incredible thing happened. Uncle Sam called on Americans to join the fight and guess what–the Greatest Generation stepped forward. This story is about one of those Great Americans, Don T., a farm boy who grew up in a rural central Illinois village (population 1200 in 1940). In 1943, he graduated from high school with the war raging in Europe and the Pacific.

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The Flag in the Window

Mary Bowers

The whistle screeched from the old kettle, heralding its success in having boiled the water. Louise turned off the gas under the kettle and poured the boiling water into a chipped mug. As she stirred the tea in the mug, she thought again about how that mug had gotten chipped. Davey was almost two when he tipped the empty mug, hoping for a taste of the sugary tea. His little hands couldn’t contain the weight of the mug, and the edge of it fell against his beautiful left incisor, leaving chips in both the mug and the tooth. Louise recalled the hoop-la when Davey lost the chipped tooth the day he turned five. The new permanent tooth had so far lasted the rest of his life…

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2022 – A Look Back

Theresa Sokol
Al Carlson

We like to end each year with an issue in which we look back at the stories, poems, articles, memoirs, and–well, whatever–that we’ve published during the past 51 weeks.  And we have a staggering variety this time around.

We’ll share them with you in a moment. We want to stress that these are not necessarily “the best” articles in their category–just the ones that stood out for us personally, sometimes for very subjective reasons. We hope that you have a list of your own favorites.

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Stefan’s Imprisonment in Ukraine

Junia Ancaya

Triggered by the unprovoked, barbaric Russian invasion of Ukraine and its peoples’ horrendous suffering a few months ago, I began presenting to you, my dear OLLI friends, chronological excerpts from my dad Stefan’s war years—during a similar assault on Poland by the Soviets at the outbreak of WW II. The first story was, “The Soviet Invasion of Zbaraz.”  This the second story: “Stefan’s Imprisonment in Ukraine”.  –Junia

September 1939, Shepetovka (Soviet occupied Ukraine)
Stefan arrived from Tarnopol (Pol.) in a cattle train, forty prisoners in each boxcar, to a massive POW camp in Shepetovka ((today: Shepetivka, in western Ukraine). His sergeant, Jagiello, was with him.

Every soldier had to identify himself at the camp’s registration posts. Stefan produced a fake document stating he was Infantry Private Stefan Orzechowski; Jagiello had written it hastily while on the train. He hoped the Soviets wouldn’t understand Polish or suspect anything shady.

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The World War II “Flying Tigers”

Kun Shi

The World War II “Flying Tigers”, or Fei Hu in Mandarin Chinese, was a highly respected group of American pilots, the American Volunteer Group (AVG), that was recruited by the Chinese Nationalist government to fight the Japanese in the early years of the war. In the summer of 1941, about 260 AVG members (including 110 pilots and 99 P-40 fighters) reached southwest China under the command of Claire Chennault, as part of the Chinese Air Force. The P-40 fighters of the AVG were originally painted with the design of a shark’s mouth. To the Chinese in southwest mountainous region, that image of “flying tigers” was the ultimate power and ideal symbol to fight the enemy. Thus was born the nickname and the legacy of Flying Tigers, including the Disney designed insignia. 

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The End of the Liberal World Order?

Don Menzel

“America,” former Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, in his later years proclaimed, “is the locomotive at the head of mankind, and the rest of the world the caboose.” The new liberal world order fashioned together after WWII was the “rules-based order” led by the United States. The alternative, Acheson believed, is an international jungle with no “rules, no umpire, no prizes for good boys.” Does Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military incursion into Ukraine signal a return to the jungle and an end to the liberal world order? View more

A Trip to Ukraine

Junia Ancaya

Florida, November 2004

As I drove through central Florida on Hwy 60, the devastation left by Charlie, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne—four recent hurricanes that hit the state this year—was everywhere. Metal poles corkscrewed the ground; county repair trucks crowded the road’s shoulders; men rushed with ladders; and gigantic trees lay tilted toward their broken branches, as if lamenting over them.

The traffic slowed to a stop. On my left, a house, caved-in and demolished by a gigantic centenarian live oak, stood crooked with sunken holes in place of windows. Dense, dirty-gray Spanish moss spread its webs over the building, entangling debris and seemingly floating in the very air.

The desolation caused by the deadly winds carried my thoughts five thousand miles away, as I recalled my recent trip to Ukraine.

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