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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The Ukraine Invasions

As we write this, the actual invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s forces is ongoing. Whether that stage of the “war” will be over by the time we publish is something we don’t know. Whether it is or not, conflict will certainly continue. But war and conflict aren’t new to the Ukraine, as you know from your own memory of “history”.  OLLI members have an edge on the general public in that we’re old enough to have lived some of the history that they only read about on the Web.

We have two articles today. They were written separately, but we think they fit together well. 
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The Soviet Invasion of Zbaraz

In 1939, after denying any hostile intentions, Soviet Russia invaded Poland from the east as Nazi Germany was invading it from the west.  A few days ago, after denying any hostile intentions, Russia invaded Ukraine. Both invasions affected the town of Zbaraz, now Zbarazh, on the border between Poland and Ukraine.

Junia Ancaya’s father, Stefan, a Lieutenant in the Polish army, was captured by the Russians at Zbaraz as they swept through. Junia has told his story in one of her books, and we are publishing the portion here that tells the story of 1939.  The story of 2022 is yet to be written.  –Editor

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The Greatest Generation and a Misspelled Name

My husband and I have always taken pride in our fathers’ World War II military service. Both served in the US Army Air Corp (now the Air Force). Bill, my father-in-law, was a gunner flying B-24s over Germany (in the “waist” of the plane, the middle side behind the wings); my father, Murray Zimney, was a ground crew engineer performing maintenance on the same planes before and after their bombing runs.

Bill’s last name was Beasom. My husband Buck Beasom (he says he kept his own name when we got married) is actually Bill Jr., but has been Buck since his Vietnam-era Navy days. Buck grew up hearing tales of Bill’s flying adventures, mostly (but not always) sanitized for the ears of the four children. My father Murray was far more reserved in sharing information about his days in the military. Perhaps, according to the norms of the 1950’s, his two little girls needed to be sheltered from all disturbing things.  (More…)

Baseball and the Atomic Bomb

Bharat Pathakjee

While researching for my class on the Atomic Age, I came across a little-known human interest story about a man named Moe Berg. The son of a Jewish pharmacist, he was born in New Jersey in 1902.  He loved baseball and was quite good at it, much to his father’s displeasure. He excelled at his high school, won a scholarship to Princeton, and played ball in the Ivy League. He majored in Romance languages and became fluent in no fewer than six.

After Princeton he was recruited by the pros—the Brooklyn Robins–for $5,000 a year ($71,000 in today’s money). More success was soon to follow, and in 1926 he earned $50,000 ($700,000 in today’s money) playing for the Chicago White Sox.  (More…)

Dad’s Dog Tags

Diane Henrikson Russell

A week into 2021, I received a short message from Alan Carlson, the OLLI Connects Editor. Somebody had written a comment on my 2018 OLLI Connects story about Santa Claus. Who would comment on it two years later? Alan sent the comment for me to read before posting it.

The comment read: “Dear Diane, I try to contact you on your Facebook message about your dad. Hope you can see and read it! Kind regards, Sam.”

I checked Messenger and, sure enough, there was a message from Sam with two blurred images. In this age of mistrust and online scamming, I did not open the images and chose not to reply through Messenger.

Instead, I emailed Sam with the following message:  (More…)

Struggle for Freedom

Junia Ancaya

Chapter One: Lodz, 1942, Ghetto at Baluty

Like the shattering of my family and Poland due to Hitler’s and Stalin’s ruthless power ambitions, my first impressions of life in Lodz in the midst of WW II, my awakening, emerged not as a continuum but as fragmented images and episodes. . . .

I was six. I held her hand and through her fingers felt my mother tremble at the approach of an SS man, but he passed us by on the street. A menacing sky hung close above Lodz’s numerous factory chimneys. Bulky ashen clouds and snowflakes crowded the air as my mother, brother and I stood waiting at a street corner for the trolley. Around us more and more people were caught in the whistling wind. It blew one way and the other and swept in mad pirouettes.

The trolley barreled toward us growing to enormous proportions before it squealed to an abrupt stop. A door opened in front of me, so I freed myself from my mother’s hand and hopped onto the stairs. But the next second she yanked me backwards by my collar. I slid on the snow, and before I had time to think she picked me up and rushed to the last trolley car. My brother raced beside us. We boarded. Mother sat on the one available seat.   (More…)