“European refugees” come to America — Post-war immigration of Displaced Persons

While 1948 had significant milestones in U.S. Congress, like the enactment of the law ending racial segregation in the Armed Forces, little did the 80th Congress know the impact of its historic vote passed on 25 June 1948 for stateless persons or “European refugees” in war torn Germany.  This important legislation would allow a new beginning in a new country for the Tschubenko’s, a Ukrainian family of three, living over 4,036 miles away in Augsburg near Munich.  At the end of World War II, allied forces were dealing with individuals living in former concentration camps who could not return to their former residences due the fear of political or religious persecution.

The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 created 2,000 visas for those “stateless” persons living in the now-called “work camps.”  Under the supervision of western forces, post-war camp life allowed the evolution of these camps into active cultural and social centers for their residents.  While the family lived in DP Camps in towns such as Mannheim, Ellwangen, Neu-Ulm and finally at DP Camp Hochfeld in Augsburg, the family was able to begin preparing for emigration to the United States under the auspices of the International Refugee Organization (IRO).

Almost three years to the date of that 1948 Congressional Act, the USNS General Blatchford arrived in New York harbor on a Saturday in late June.  After a 10 day journey across the Atlantic Ocean and Ellis Island in view, Fedir and Anna Tschubenko were relieved to be at the end of their trip as their young son, Taras, suffered from sea-sickness the entire trip.  The scattered showers and mild temperatures didn’t dampen the hope of a father, mother and their 4 year old son as they embarked on a new life in America.

Soon after their arrival the family settled briefly in New York City on East 9th Street, where they received their Alien Registration cards.  In an effort to assimilate into their new country, Fedir Americanized his name to Theodore Chubenko.   Within less than a year of arrival, the family moved with the assistance of a family friend, Dmytro Chorwat, from their lower east side flat to a duplex apartment in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Anna found work at Penn State Mills as a seamstress and Taras was enrolled in Sheridan School on North 2nd Street in Allentown.   Theodore quickly settled into his new position at Bethlehem Furniture Company.  The family found a place in their new community through their involvement at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Many might remember 1948 as a tumultuous political year for the infamous “Dewey Beats Truman” erroneous election results, however new immigrants in the early 1950s had much to be thankful for in the U.S. government’s change in immigration policy enacted that year.  Even though President Truman called the 80th Congress, the “Do Nothing Congress,” its actions on June 28, 1948 had a far reaching impact on a small portion of families living in post-war Germany – a chance at a new beginning.

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5 thoughts on ““European refugees” come to America — Post-war immigration of Displaced Persons

  1. My Father and Mother were one of the lucky ones. They got to come to the USA in December of 1950. After surviving abduction by the german army and spending the war years in Germany against their will and fortunately not being sent back to the Soviet Union. They arrived with a son, born in 1948, in Ellwangen. That boy was me.

  2. Hans,
    I corresponded with Olya a year or so ago. To be honest, she had much more information than I had by then. She was a wonderful repository of data. She had accomplished a lot in the years since the original post you referenced. I was able to get copies of some very interesting German documents with her help. We shared emails for a couple of months. I gathered from those emails she was an exceptional lady.

    Unfortunately, in her last email, she indicated she was recovering from a serious illness. I have not heard from her since. No replies to my many emails. I lost a good friend.

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