Audio Recording of Interview
Bohdan Kantor delves into extensive detail regarding his journey as a “stateless” Ukrainian living in Germany and then resettling to the U.S. as a child. Kantor shares how his parents’ lives shaped his migration journey in times of war and violence and how he immigrated to America despite public xenophobia in the mid-1900s.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
This interview was recorded in two parts, so you may hear sudden shifts in conversation as a result. The second part begins at 0:46.
Narrator: Bohdan Kantor
Location: Arlington, VA
Content Warning: Graphic imagery of Nazi violence inflicted throughout war
Summary: Bohdan Kantor delves into extensive detail regarding his journey as a “stateless” Ukrainian living in Germany and then resettling to the U.S. as a child. Kantor shares how his parents’ lives shaped his migration journey in times of war and violence and how he immigrated to America despite public xenophobia in the mid-1900s.
Topics: Childhood, conditions back home, cultural adjustment, discrimination, family, historical context, immigration process, mental health, disability, politics, religion, violence, war
Section 1: (00:00-7:49)
Historical context - Shares the context of his index card from the International Tracing Center, which he tracked down through the United States Holocaust Museum since his father did not readily tell Bohdan the story of his migration. The card details his name spelled in Polish, addresses him as Ukrainian and stateless, along with his birth date in the year 1947. Ultimately, it traces his journey to Philadelphia along with his sponsor and the members of his family in the agencies’ attempts to keep the family together. He also shares documents from his “children’s village” at the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency which was equivalent to an orphanage that protected the children from the Nazi air force.
Section 2: (7:50-34:39)
Conditions back home, historical context - Notes how his story begins in Philadelphia where he became an orphan, but wanted to begin with the time before his parents were forcibly moved to Germany. He then talks about his father being a prisoner in the Polish army with dog tags to label him. Shared about the care packages his family received while in refugee camps (Cornberg and Leipheim) and also how his parents lived in a home with running water and a stove within the camp, privileges he attributes to being connected with Buchenwald survivors.
Religion- Talks about Jewish and Ukrainian relationships since one of his camps was near Eshwege, which was entirely Jewish and had synagogues to worship while Zionists did agricultural work to prepare to go to Palestine. In the Ukrainian camp, there was also the presence of places of warship through Catholic, Orthodox, and Baptist churches that were built.
Family, cultural adjustment- Shares how his sister was in a more progressive camp away from his growing up, and how her health condition was worse than his and required her to be hospitalized. Focuses on time he and his family began to flourish after moving to another camp, in Bad Aibling, with the help of the American Friends Services Committee who had volunteers that treated him like and individual when he was a child and helped him to learn English and allowed him to play freely once in the States.
Section 3: (34:40-48:07)
Immigration process, politics- Speaks about a Congressional committee investigating the conditions in camp Cornberg and saw that the talented farmers in the camp could be of use in the Northern United States. So, an executive exclaimed that the whole camp should go to America under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. Bohdan notes how he was not aware of how he had gotten to the states prior to investigating the members names on a Ship Manifest of Inbound Passengers to New York where he saw his name. Walked through the many steps of migration including a refugee becoming an immigrant in the States due to public fear of immigration through political contagion of communism coming to America with the refugees.
Mental health, disability- Notes how his immigration process was extended due to his mother’s postpartum depression since countries refused to accept refugees deemed as disabled in any way. Shares how his father divorced his mother and left her at the camp so he and the children could immigrate since they would not be allowed to with his mother’s perceived disability.
Section 4: (48:08-1:08:36)
Faith - Shares how his father became a singer in a very religious Cathedral choir, which allowed his father to have a happy life after coming to the States. Discusses the Basilian order of nuns and priests that were present throughout his education in Philadelphia.
Family - Goes back to the details of how his parents first beame migrants from Ukraine which includes the fact that his fathers regiment in the Polish army was one of the first to be captured by Nazis. From there, his father was given the choices of working in a forced labor camp or going to a concentration camp, and his father chose to go into forced labor while his mother was ultimately taken as a slave laborer and was placed in the same labor camp as his father, where they met. Details how he and his sister were both born in camps and ultimately his father put them in an orphanage in the States so they could live a better life.
Section 5: (1:08:37-1:33:53)
Adjustment, religion, family, education - Bohdan described how his father would go to visit him and his sister on Sundays, which was also the only time he could spend time with his sister since the orphanage separated the boys from the girls. Shares about his religious education where everything was based around the nuns’ rules. Ultimately, he was perceived to be gifted and talented in his studies, particularly in the realm of languages, so his father was recommended to have him go to a better high school where he enjoyed exposure to over ten languages and saw his time as allowing him to benefit from a good education. Noted how his education in the states was much more centered around what was good for him as a student whereas it was more general in the camps.
Religion- Remembers religious icons and incense in the campus and his father singing bringing him a sense of peace and the places of worship overall being very calming. Notes the distinctions in the church services depending on which camp he was in, with the Quaker camp allowing people to worship more introspectively, according to their faith.
Section 6: (1:33:54-)
Childhood - Talks about how the nuns realized he had talents and his ability to solve problems and bring peaceful resolutions.
Historical context - Gives details about the camps, the forced famine of the Soviets in the early 1930s and political action by Americans in the realm of immigration.
Future- Shares his passion for writing, documenting, and uplifting others to let them know that they can better themselves just as he did.