My magical first English word
by JV Koshiw
“Hershey, Hershey, Hershey!” I shouted at U.S. Army truck convoys passing in the night through the small town of Landshut, Bavaria, in 1948. Often the soldiers would answer my call with a hail of chocolate bars. After filling my mouth with as much chocolate as I could manage, I gathered the rest and brought them to my parents. This night time ritual was often repeated. Awakened during the night by the rumble of approaching motors, I would scramble out of bed with my friend Romko Romach to shout Hershey at the passing Americans!
Only much later, when I became a father did I ask myself why my parents never made any effort to stop me, a four year old, from rushing out of the displaced persons camp into the night. After reading books on the DPs and post-war Germany, I realized I was part of Germany's black-market food chain engaged in a struggle for survival. The scarce chocolate was exchanged for equally scarce eggs and butter.
In the spring of 1950, my parents, along with my older sister and my younger brother and me, left Bremen for New York City on a ship called “SS General Hershey”. On hearing the word Hershey I dreamt of chocolate which didn’t appear during the voyage. Instead, soup and strong sea fish were served. In the cargo hold where the women and children were kept, the rolling of the ship caused many people to get sea sick. I couldn’t eat any more soup after witnessing someone vomiting into the soup pot.
On arrival, upon meeting strangers I would say the only English word I knew – Hershey. The response often was a chocolate bar. For me Hershey was not just my first English word, it was my magic wand.
At the end of WW2, the Landshut DPs were specks of the fifteen million hungry foreigners who found themselves among the just as hungry Germans and Austrians. The Allies sent them most of the DPs to their to their place of origin, except for about 800,000 who refused to return . They were mostly Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians from the area of pre-1939 Poland which became part of the USSR, and former citizens of the Baltic states.
There are many studies on the DPs, including Marta Dyczok’s The Grand Alliance and Ukrainian Refugees (Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2000) and Ben Shephard’s The Long Road Home (Bothley Head, London, 2010).
The Landshut DP camp appears at the center of Leta Jones memoir, Coward's Custard (Minevra Press 1998). She was the camp's IRO director. My father Mykola Koshiw worked for her as a go-between with the DPs.
Yarko in Landshut
Leta Jones, Landshut DPcamp director
My father Mykola Koshiw worked for Leta Jones. She recalls her time in Landshut camp in her memoir, Coward's Custard (London, Minerva Press 1998).
Landshut- Koshiw family
Landshut-Koshiw family- 3
Mykola Koshiw and Marusha and Jaroslav
Landshut- children on bench
Jaroslav-Romko at the far end, and Marusha, and Bohdan at other end
Landshut- children 5
Former military barracks where Koshiw family lived.
Marusha in school
Iwanna Koshiw's class of children
Lanshut - Jordan Service