7:00 PM - Washington Week with Gwen Ifill
Mind Riot is a three-day competition that brings together students and experts to work on some of the biggest challenges we all face today. Here to tell us more is Bryton Sampson. </p>
Kud-Kudijaroff: Well I was born in Berlin, Germany and for the first four years, about three or four years I lived in Berlin. And then my mom and dad started to move around, they tried to move where ever there was less bombing. So then after the war basically stopped, the bombing stopped we returned to Berlin and we tried to live there for a while and we lived there until about '49, 1949. And after 1949 there was a restaurant, chef, cook, maintenance man position open in Munich that my dad knew somebody there who knew somebody who could have gotten him the job, so we went to Munich and that didn't last too long. Then we settled in the DP camp, displaced person camp, and were not too far from Munich named Schleissheim, which was an old German Air Force Base. Then the Western Coalition, that was the French, the British, and the Americans, they had relief programs. And one of the things that they did with the DP camp is they took the open bay barracks and divided them into little rooms and then one room was given per family. So if you had ten people in the family you lived in a room, if you had two people in the family you lived in a room, so it wasn't proportioned to the size of family, it was just one family gets one room. And then the bathroom facilities and the showers and so forth, they were in a separate building across the street from our barracks. Then the majority of the population that lived in Schleissheim was what we were calling White Russians, they were not the Bolsheviks, which were called the Red Russians, so to differentiate those two you always said, "White or Red Russian". And there were all White Russians there. The reason the White Russians population was so great there is after 1917, the Russian Revolution, a lot of the White Russians that were either in the military or in the government knew that their chances of survival was very slim so they escaped Russia for that. Then they traveled all around the world, just not into Russia, and a lot of them went into Germany and they lived there and they thrived, they had businesses, they had work and so forth. And then after the war broke out I think Hitler's plan was to, which he did, invade Russia and basically occupy Russia and get minerals and anything that could be used for Germany he would get out of there. But he needed to have a government, a puppet government so to speak, that would help him out. And he knew that a lot of the White Russians didn't like the Red Russians and if they throw the Red Russians out they would be back in power. And basically they would be allied with Hitler then and let him have basically a lot of things that Russia had as far as the natural resources goes. So he hired a lot of the White Russians to work in government jobs in Germany right before the war started and my dad had a job as…
Start over and tell me what it was like before the war and what your father would do.
Kud-Kudijaroff: As I stated, the German government at that time hired all the White Russians that escaped from the Bolshevik Revolution and my father was a printer. And I had a letter one time, it was like a commendation from Hitler himself to my father, I can't find it anymore. I don't know where it is but I still have my dad's passport at home. We lived pretty decent, he had a job, we had an apartment we lived in, and transportation, most people there had public transportation. Nobody really needed a car and the grocery store and other stores were always around the corner, every corner had one, every neighborhood had one. Then as war progressed and it got worse for the Germans and they started losing, and allies were coming in, basically closing in on the capitol, which was Berlin, my parents were basically dodging wherever there was bombing. Berlin was bombed pretty heavy at that time so we left Berlin and then after the war my dad and my mom came back to Berlin, just basically they knew people there and they had lived there.
Describe what you would see in the streets as a kid.
Kud-Kudijaroff: In the lull of the bombing, when there wasn't bombing, us kids were allowed to go outside and play and so forth and so on. People weren't buying toys in those years for the kids, basically kids had to invent their own games, hopscotch, hide and seek, and so forth. We entertained ourselves quite a bit, climbing trees, just doing anything kids do without having to buy anything. One of the things that I remember is going out we'd see bomb fragments, and after the explosion the inside of the piece of fragment would shine really bright and it was very attractive to kids. As kids we were collecting those things. I don't know why. And the parents were throwing them out worried that there could be contaminates in it or still maybe some little explosive in there or something, because the general public doesn't know about armament and so forth. So just to be safe when kids brought in fragments, out they went, we couldn't keep them things. And then several times as we were out playing and they got an early warning that bombers were coming in the sirens would blast off in the city and everybody starts scrambling to go into shelters, and bunkers, and basements, wherever they thought would be safe. I remember one day I was just sitting in a sandbox and my dad just grabbed me by the arm and just flung me, jerked me because he was in a hurry and I didn't know there were bombs. But I heard the booms and as a kid, four or five years old, you don't really think of, "What is this boom?" Like right now, when I hear a boom I can say, "Okay, this is just thunder or something like that." Or, "Something blew up someplace." As a young kid you don't really think about that. All I remember is very distinct, I got really jerked me, surprised me, and all of the sudden he was running into the basement to the house where we were at. Then right as soon as we got in there I was thinking, "Are we going to eat something?" Kids don't think about what might happen, kids think, "What can I eat or do?" or something to benefit the child itself.
What about the tanks?
Kud-Kudijaroff: The tanks. That was I would say, because I'm not quite sure the year, because if I would have known then what I know now I would have written everything down. Even the tank numbers and things like that, but I just remember one day my dad and I were walking and a line of tanks come rumbling down the road and as a kid it was impressive. I just thought, "Wow, look at the neat tank." As a matter of fact in 1959 when my brother and I were contemplating joining the military, I was thinking of joining the army and being a tank driver. I still like tanks, I had model tanks and so forth. But yeah, the tanks were impressive I couldn’t tell you what type of tanks they were or anything like that, but it was just the rumbling and seeing them moving down the road which was pretty interesting for a kid. As matter of fact we have tanks in parades still and a lot of kids love to see the tanks. I have a picture when I was… I’m a retired police officer from the Tucson Police Department, and I was assigned to escort one of the tanks, we have a parade every year, the Fiesta de los Vaqueros parade. It's the biggest non-motorized parade in the world. And somebody goofed and they wanted to bring a tank in there and they said, "Sorry can't do that." And the tank was already downtown, so I had to escort it back to the National Guard compound. I knew the lieutenant, he was an attorney, he was in the National Guard, and he was a lieutenant, maybe even a captain. And I knew him, so one of the newspaper photographers just happened to be there and he asked us to pose. I was writing him a ticket, which you don't see very often, a police officer writing a ticket to a tank driver.
Can you describe what Berlin was like in 1948?
Kud-Kudijaroff: I would guesstimate that about 60 to 70 percent of the city was basically flat, in ruins. You might have a couple of walls left and things like that. Buildings, especially government buildings, were pretty much gone, in ruins. Some streets were not passable because there was debris all over the road and so forth. It got cleaned up a little bit because what they did is they had people, basically the German population, they went and just brick by brick handed them to get streets cleared so vehicles could go through and people could walk through there. And then some people who were fortunate enough that had a business like a restaurant or any kind of business, they tried to work with it as much as they could. They had no products to sell or anything like that, but people would bring something in for trade. The barter system was going really great there. And the black market was really profiting there too, you know people were basically scraping all the money that they could to get some things that they didn't have. Most of it was food or clothing, those were two big items that were in big demand there. The foreign governments were pretty good about that, they were trying to get stabilized. Because, I believe in '48 it was a time when the Cold War was really getting into gear and the Western or NATO people basically, NATO wasn't in existence at that time I don't believe, I think they started around 1950 or some place. But anyhow the Western, the French, the English, and the Americans were a little bit worried about the Russians because they were taking over Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria, Romania and those, which they made up the Soviet Union. So they were pretty worried about that and that's one of the reasons they didn't want to just say, "Ah, we don’t care." Because if the German people said, "If the Russians come and just give them pittance of food at least we're getting something. We're not getting anything from the Western side so, why don't we all become Communist." And this is one thing that Americans and the allies of the Americans didn't want to happen. So they said, "We've got to put some effort into feeding these people, and clothing these people, and giving them shelter to keep them from becoming Communist." Because Communism was spreading and that's one thing they wanted to contain.
Tell me about your impressions of the Airlift.
Kud-Kudijaroff: I always was interested in the military, I don't know why. It's just tanks, planes, ships, jeeps anything that had to do with military I was interested. If I see a book that has anything military I would look at it, or models I look at it. As a matter of fact I go to a lot of, every chance I get to see a military museum wherever I go, I go visit it. So we didn't live too far, maybe 30 minutes walk, if that, and the kids, we could run and make it in 10 minutes to the airport. We knew that planes would land and come there and then we noticed the influx of planes coming in. As a seven year old I wasn't aware of the blockade itself, but I just noticed there was a lot of planes coming in. They were basically flying almost over our roof to get into Tempelhof, which was the airport at that time, and so we would periodically go out there and just watch. You know, it's neat to watch them. And one day we went up there and the planes were coming in and all of a sudden this one plane had these little parachutes coming down with chocolate in the things. And naturally I thought, I didn't know that they were chocolates when they were coming down. Most of the kids were wondering what it was that was coming down. Some of them already knew, because from when I talked to Colonel Halvorsen, who was one of the pilots that started that. He told them that he would drop something the next time he comes in. So when the kids were told about that, and word spreads really fast through the community, especially with kids, they asked him, "How do we know it's going to be you?" Because it's almost every minute a plane was coming in. He said, "I'll just wiggle my wings on the plane." But I can't even remember if that was the time he wiggled the wings or if that was just the day after that. I didn't write anything down, all I knew is that one day I was there and I saw these little parachutes coming down and my brother, who was about seven or eight years older than I am so he was 15 then, he ran up there and he picked as many as he could find of those chocolates because every kid was really scrambling there. And I believe we got about between eight or ten bars that he got. Because he told me to just sit there and wait, and when my brother said something you listened because if he didn't punish you then dad would punish you for not listening to him. So I waited and then he came back and he had these chocolate bars and even at that time I wasn't quite sure what it was, I was just seven years old, okay he went and got something, what do you got? And he says, "I got some chocolate." And I said, "Okay, let me have some." Well, he wouldn't give it to me. He took it home and he gave it to mother who knew how to ration it and to make it stretch. So you know it's, "You kids behave and you're going to get one little piece of chocolate." So we behaved the whole day and we got one piece of chocolate, and then the next day, same thing. You get up in the morning, "Okay you behave today you get another piece of chocolate." So it lasted for about two weeks.
Were you or your brother excited when you saw these parachutes? What were you thinking or feeling?
Kud-Kudijaroff: I think my brother might have known what it was. And the reason I believe that, we never talked about it really, I guess he just figured that he saw it coming down and he knew what it is, so why talk about it? I never bothered to ask him specifically, "How did you feel about it?" or anything like that. The reason I believe that he might have known that it was going to happen is because we specifically went down to the airport that day. I think other pilots in other planes did the same thing, it became almost like a program.
Tell me about the program as you know it now as an adult.
Kud-Kudijaroff: As an adult what I understand, and I did talk to Colonel Halvorsen, I personally met him and I didn't know until the day that I met him the history of the whole thing. That he was a deliverer and I was a recipient of this program, I wouldn't really say program, it was just something that he out of the kindness of his heart did. Because after the war until about '50 there were still a lot of Americans, Brits, and French that didn't like Germans because of what the government did, the military and everything else, started World War II and created havoc there. So they were still a little bit hostile towards Germans. And I think Colonel Halvorsen and his thinking saying, "These are kids they had nothing to do with it, why punish them too?" But he landed one time and then he walked up to the fence, just saying hi to the kids, he had two sticks of gum and there were a whole bunch of kids there. So he just split it up in real small pieces and they thanked him, and nobody says, "Hey, how come he got some and I didn't get anything?" They were very well behaved according to Colonel Halvorsen so he felt kind of bad that he didn't have more to give. He told the kids, "Next time I come I'll bring something, make sure you're here." I think he knew that he couldn't land the plane, get his stuff, walk to the fence and give it. So I think this is where the idea came up of, "I'll just drop it off before I land", and he got the idea of the parachutes done with a handkerchief. Apparently the word spread out really fast back to the commanding officer who says, at that time he was a lieutenant, and said, "Hey, you can't do that thing. We don’t patronize with the Germans, they were our enemies. We're not going to beat them up, but we're not going to patronize them." I think the word got up to the higher ups and they thought this was something. Because right at that time the Airlift was created because the Russians, the Communist Bloc, blockaded the routes for trucks that were making the deliveries which they used to do. So now was the time to say, "Put up or shut up." One of the two things, so we're going to put up and do the thing that we need to do to keep these people in here alive and not to let them turn to Communism. I don't think Halvorsen was even thinking about it as, well I'm going to make them non-Communism by, I think he just said, "These kids deserve a break and I'm going to help these kids out since I'm doing better than they are doing." The Hershey Company even got involved, they donated a lot of the bars, because the first couple of times Halvorsen purchased some in the PXs and told a couple of his buddies, "Hey buy all the candy that you can and give it to me and I'll give it to the kids." And apparently he got a pretty good response but it was a really great publicity thing for the Americans and some of the higher ups really thought this was great. So they told the Colonel, "You let him do that, this is good for us." So he continued doing that thing. And again, it's unfortunate that some of the older people didn't record more of it and didn't say more of it and they didn't bring reporters down and interview the kids themselves right there and follow up five, ten… the way you're doing now, how was it and so forth. Unfortunately as they say, 20/20 hindsight is much better than… well it's not, but it should be hindsight is much better than foresight because you already know what happened, if you could just think about it beforehand and preserve some of the history, or some of the story itself that would have been great.
What did you get from the Airlift as far as the food, the trucks, the care packages?
Kud-Kudijaroff: There's an organization called CARE, I don't know if you know about it, you've probably hear about it. What they do is they made boxes and they had powdered egg, powdered milk… I know the powdered egg and powdered milk because I had a lot of it. But the family would get a box and you would just basically stand in line, wait, and get the box and then you go home and next week you do it again. Or however they were rationed, I can't even recall if they rationed it every day, every week, every two days, or odd days and even days, different people. But I know that we did get the packages, the CARE packages. As a matter of fact my mother when we got to the United States when we got requests for donations from CARE she would almost give half a paycheck for that because we were recipients of it and we know how good the program is.
Were there big trucks other than CARE packages?
Kud-Kudijaroff: I can't recall the program in Berlin except being a recipient. Matter of fact there was one time in Berlin that they took a group of children and I happened to be one of them in there. There was a big house, it was a mansion, really big, and it was like a three-day camp. They would take a group of kids, send them for three days, then they'd clean, restock, and then they'd take another group of kids. And I happened to be one of the kids who go to go there for three days, basically you slept in a nice clean bed, you got a shower every morning, we did get some clothes, then we'd get fed three times. And I believe that was part of the CARE stuff that they had, that's in Berlin. Now once we left Berlin and got to Schleissheim there they had one of the barracks that was like a commissary and we were given food stamps. I was about ten and one day I went to get something and a truck, a semi-truck basically, where they just stacked the loaves of bread in it, no bags, no sanitary, it's just the whole thing was stacked. And what they is they just grabbed people walking by, "You want to help? You get a free loaf of bread." So I just happened to be walking by to get something and they said, "Hey kid, you want to help?" Sure, they throw two loaves of bread, you catch two of them, you give them to the next person and the truck emptied really fast doing that. But that was part of the CARE program. Then they had one where you had stamps for it, like the bread, and the milk, and so forth. Then the other one you had were basically your name was on a list and they give you the box of whatever they had in there. And usually my dad would go pick it up because the box was pretty heavy, it was a good size and it was a CARE program where you just got that.
How did your family live in Berlin in 1948?
Kud-Kudijaroff: I remember it was a two story building and I slept on a mattress on the floor. The summer wasn't so bad but as it got colder in the wintertime my dad took cardboard, whatever he could find. And people tried to take cardboard to heat the oven, or stove, or barrel, whatever they had to keep themselves warm so it was tough to keep windows. Somebody had to be in the house or around the house all the time to watch that nobody would take the cardboard down from the windows. So we had coats, we had shirts, everything else and then they tried to give back. As a matter of fact my dad found a couple of extra mattresses and since we didn't need them to sleep on we used them as covers. And they do keep you pretty warm. As you start to understand a little bit when you're seven or eight years old that things aren't as hunky dory as they used to be, or you just didn't worry that a younger age. For us children it wasn't as bad as for the adults. Because later on I found out that there were days where mom and dad didn't eat just to make sure that the kids had some food. So that's pretty tough.
You mentioned moving from bombed out building to bombed out building. Did you do that?
Kud-Kudijaroff: A couple times we did, yeah. But I think it was a little bit before '48, this was '45, '46.
Can you describe that to me, moving around?
Kud-Kudijaroff: My dad usually would scout out places beforehand and then when he'd find something he'd come running and say, "Come on, hurry up let's go. I found something that's a little bit better." He always tried to upgrade where you would have a little bit more walls, maybe even a roof, or maybe a door and a room or something like that just for security and for the colder times being in the warmth a little bit better than that. So you didn't have a job so you did what you could to preserve and help your family. So like I said, he would go scout around and see if he could find something that was a little bit better than what we had. A lot of the floors they had debris so as kids and family we all helped taking the bricks and throwing them out, cleaning the floor so you had something nice and flat. Then also because a lot of the rooms had still material things, maybe a coat, or maybe blanket, or maybe anything that's made out of cloth. He was a pretty good handy man. As matter of fact even before the war's end, I think I showed you some pictures, the sled that my dad was pulling me around on, he built it himself. Until about seven years old he would make my shoes, we never went and bought any shoes he made my shoes. The clothing that I had on he made that, he was… I have a hard time talking about my dad. He was a jack of all trades, he was a master of all of them too. All the clothing he made for me. I remember in Munich, this was about '49, we were walking down the street and there was a store and I saw an American jeep made out of wood, modeled, and I fell in love with it, I wanted it. And I said, "Dad, I'd like to have that." And he said, "No, it's just something to look at, it's not to play with, if you're going to play with it it's going to break." I said, "No, dad, I really want that." He said, "Well, let me think about that thing." We got home and a couple days later he brought the jeep home and as he said, "It's too look at, not to play with." Well, I wanted to play with it. About an hour into playing a wheel fell off, the gas tank fell off. And he put it back together as good as he could with material we had. He was wise, I never had any doubt in what he said, it was just my desire of "That's what I want" and he warned me. I guess it was a lesson that you've got to listen to your dads it's something they know more about. He really took good care of his family and did a lot of things for us. Like I said, clothing, haircuts, he gave us our haircuts. I didn't think I looked too bad with the haircuts he gave me.
You said he was very savvy about food.
Kud-Kudijaroff: When we went to Munich they hired him as a chef there, he knew how to cook just about everything and he could make things out of nothing almost. He can make a potato look 19 different ways and taste a hundred different ways and you'd never think you'd had it before. He would make things last longer, he knew that if you find, let's say a bone, he knew how long to boil it to get a certain taste out of it and then stop, get it out so you could re-use it again. A lot of people use a bone one time and then they pitch it, he could use a bone three times and make three different soups out of it just depending on what you add to it. Wherever we happened to be he would find something where he could grow it, if it was in the wintertime you couldn't grow it, but the other times he would grow onions, radishes, anything that comes out of the ground and fast, potatoes and things like that. And instead of harvesting the ten potatoes that he grew he'd harvest eight of them and take two of them, chop them up, plant them again and re-use them. He knew how to ration things very well. I think that was one of the reasons that we had more food on the table than the average family had because they'd, "I got eight or ten potatoes, I'm going to eat them right now. Fix them, eat them and then I'm going to look for where else I can get ten more potatoes." Where my dad would say, "Okay, I've got ten, I'll take eight, I'll grow them." You know, he would just perpetuate.
Was this true in Berlin as well with the rationing?
Kud-Kudijaroff: Oh yeah, all his life I think that I know of he was that way.
Did your family just survive on the CARE packages? Or did your parents find other means of food in Berlin?
Kud-Kudijaroff: They bargained or bartered. Even with the potatoes I think he probably took two or three potatoes and said give me something else for the potatoes so they would barter things like that. Koreans consider the dog a delicacy, you didn't see many dogs running around in Berlin right after the war. And the people that had dogs they were guarding them with their life. Because I know that in Berlin and Munich we had meat periodically. Now, I don't know if it was horse meat, dog meat, cat meat, whatever meat, but it was something that kept us alive so I wasn't questioning what it was. As a kid you don't question to begin with but I think the adults didn't have a qualm of what kind of meat it was as long as it wasn't poisonous and people survived on that. It's a sad thing, it's unfortunate. I think PETA probably would go ballistic. If they would have been in World War II I think they would have eaten PETA people there because you had to survive and use all the means you could.
Other than the obvious dangers from shrapnel and things like that, did you need to be cautious of other people?
Kud-Kudijaroff: During the war I don't think there were dangers of other people because they were all in the same boat. You know, "We're going to protect ourselves from the bombing. We're not involved in this, we're civilians. We just hope no one shoots us." But after the war and as the Cold War heated up, my father since he's a White Russian, they always told us to be home before sundown. Because they were afraid that they would kidnap us and then blackmail the parents to go back to Russia and either prosecute them or put them in labor camps and whatever. And then I heard that there were some White Russians that were basically taken off the streets and never seen again, so that was the biggest worry. We weren't worried about anybody else except if you're surrounded by the Russians like here in Berlin then you worried about as a White Russian. Or if you were outside Berlin you were worried that they might just walk over the border, depending on how close you were to the border, and just pick you up if they know you or were looking for you. I'm thinking now 1917 to 1947 that's 30 years, most of the soldiers at that time wouldn't even remember a White Russian or know a White Russian. But apparently there were still a lot of high-ranking Red Russians that still had a hostility towards the czars, the regime, and the government, and people that work for them.
Interesting, it's more of a political thing than a survival thing. I was thinking more in terms of someone breaking in to steal the resources you had.
Kud-Kudijaroff: Yeah. I think you had some, I know you had some, it's just human nature. But I think at that time people still had a lot of respect for other people's rights and of their possessions, they wouldn't take it unless you just left it and walked away from it. As I said, they would maybe take the cardboards to start a fire to keep them warm. But I didn't see it at that time that my father was worried about other people. As a matter of fact, a lot of other people would always… when the sirens would go they would make sure that, "Is Mr. Kud-Kud's son, where's he at?" If they didn't see me they were worried and sometimes they would go out and look. And sometimes when the father was gone either at work or doing something and the sirens would go somebody else would come and grab you by the arm and say, "Come on, let's go inside."
So the community took care of each other.
Kud-Kudijaroff: Yeah, they did.
In 2007 by chance you meet Gail Halvorsen. What was that like for you?
Kud-Kudijaroff: When I came to the United States and then I joined the Air Force I was stationed at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico for two years. Then I got discharged and time went along. And I belong to the American Legion and I get their magazines and I see a reunion for the 1938 Com Squadron, which I belonged to in Puerto Rico. And I said, "Hey, that's my squadron. I'll go find out where, and when, and how." So I called the Legion and they said, "For $5 we'll give you the name and the number of the person that wants to have the reunion." So I told them okay, I gave them my $5 and they gave me the name of (Ken Coombs?), who was in Puerto Rico in 1949-1952 I believe. I called him up and said, "Hey, I'm 1938." And he asked me what year and I said, "'61-'63". And he said, "I was there way before you were." So I knew I didn't know him but we belonged to the same squadron. And he said, "I'm looking for people from the squadron to have a reunion, I don't care when they were there." And I said, "I'll help you. Just let me know what, where, when, how." So the first time was 1997. Well, before we had a meeting there he couldn't find enough people to almost make it worthwhile from the 1938. But there were a couple of other people that called and said, "Hey, I was at Ramey. Can I join?" So he said, "Mike, what do you think, should we just open it up to anybody that was stationed at Ramey or was a dependant of Ramey?" And I said, "Great, I don't care. I wouldn't mind going back and seeing it." So in '97 I went back and we got to talking and we said, "Let's make the Historical Association, let's get organized, let's get tax exempt and things like that." And we started building on that. So in 2007 we had another reunion at Ramey and he calls me and says, "Guess what, I got the Freedom Flight." I'd heard about the Freedom Flight and I figured it was just a plane that represents what the Berlin Airlift was. Well, it's not just a plane it is the plane that Halvorsen flew. So I said, "That's neat." I didn't know it was Halvorsen that was flying, I didn't know it was Halvorsen that was the person that started this. I knew about the Candy Bomber and that somebody dropped candy but I didn't know the person himself that started it. So when we got down to the base and they said, "Let's go watch over at the renovated officer's club the C-54 come in." Which is a DC-6 four prop plane. So we watched it come in and it landed and they put it in the hangar and set it up. I think I got several pictures of that. So then we had a banquet at the officer's club and they brought the whole crew that's running the C-54 and they were in their jumpsuits, their purple jumpsuits, pretty sharp. Then Ken was giving a history and said, "This is Colonel Hal Halvorsen, he is the Candy Bomber." And I'm going, "Hey, he's the one who dropped candy to us." So I went up there and basically told him, "I'm a recipient of what you did." Then I asked Ken to take a picture of the Colonel, his wife, and me. And I think he got one of those pictures too. I got a picture of it and the rest is history. Then they said half the time he lives in Arizona about 30 miles south of where I live. That's how close we were and I don't know how long he lived there but it's like…
I read in the article that you choked up when you met him, did you?
Kud-Kudijaroff: Just like I did right now with my dad.
Tell me about the emotions of actually meeting Gail Halvorsen.
Kud-Kudijaroff: It's something that brings your memory back 60 some years at least, 58 years back. And it's just those few things that you remember as a child. It's like he might as well have dropped the candy that day too, it would have been the same thing. It was neat. And that he still is alive and I got to talk to him and personally thank him. It was gratifying.
Tell me what you think about Hal Halvorsen. Gail. Is his nickname Hal by the way?
Kud-Kudijaroff: Ken always called him Hal, I don’t know why. It is Gail.
Tell me what you think about Gail Halvorsen after growing up so poor then coming to the United States and living a great life.
Kud-Kudijaroff: I have great admiration for him because he set aside saying, "Oh well, you're German, you're my enemy why should I?" He realized the kids… and I have a soft spot for kids myself. He did something that he didn't have to do. It wasn't in his contract, it wasn't anything that would get him promoted faster. It was just out of his heart he decided, "I'm going to help these kids out, I'm going to make them feel good just this much a day." (inaudible) The world needs more Hal Halvorsens. Gail Halvorsens.
Please tell me one more time about the Candy Bomber and the airport.
Kud-Kudijaroff: (Horst?) who's the oldest of the six kids he was basically in charge at that time. The second oldest is my sister, Erika. The third oldest is (Tino?) and then I'm the youngest. Well, Horst was in charge of the youngest so wherever Horst went I went or wherever I went Horst went just to make sure that he took care of me. I was always a plane fanatic or anything that has to do with the military so between I would say '46, when I started paying more attention to things, and '48 that when I see planes flying I look up and take a look just to see a plane. Since we lived so close to the airport they were kind of low, almost like, "Hey, I can touch these planes." And they were bigger than life. Because usually when we see planes you either see them in a picture, or you see them far away, or if you're lucky enough to go close to airports you see them just parked there. But flying them right above you that was kind of neat so I would go close to that airport periodically and my brother showed an interest in planes too. I think more my brother than I recognized that all of the sudden a slew of airplanes were coming in. I mean they were constantly coming in, one or two minutes apart. As soon as the runway cleared another one would land. My brother might have known, he was old enough to know, but I could care less I was seven years old all I see is more planes now than I'd ever seen before which was kind of neat entertainment. Then the word passed around to watch for the plane where the wings go down because we're going to get something from that plane. And I don't know if it was that day that he said he was going to be the first time he did the wings or if he did actually the wings like that. But the day that I was there where I actually saw the parachutes coming down with the candy. I think my brother knew that there might be some coming in so he drug me because he had to watch me and he said, "You sit here and you wait." And it was just outside the fence and it had rubble and bricks and things like that all over. So I just sat down and I just watched the plane, I was a happy camper and he went to where the chocolate was dropped and a whole slew of kids were there and things dropped. And I might have even thought maybe I should get up and get some too. But I would have been just trampled. So anyhow, he comes back and he has eight to ten bars of chocolate. He told me what he had and I go, "Wow, can I have some?" He says, "No, we're going home to Mom. Mom will have to give you some." Mom learned a lot from Dad saying, "We're going to ration things, we're not going to make it a good meal one day and then starve for the next seven. We're going eat piecemeal and last it for a week." So every night before bed she gave every child a square of chocolate and you put it in your mouth and you don't chew it, you just kind of saliva around it and try to make it last as long as you can. Like I said, I thought that was great. As a matter of fact I told my brother that we had to go back and get some more. I don't know, he might have gone back and gotten some more I just don’t know. I just remember the one time, maybe I even went another time but it wasn't a big thing anymore so I'm not recalling that. I just know the first time I saw the parachutes coming down and then realizing there were chocolates I thought, "Wow." And I don't even know if I was thinking that they came out of an airplane or if they came from heaven or something like that. I just know that they were coming down and there was chocolate. So it was kind of a neat thing there.
What do you think it did for the morale of the children of Berlin.
Kud-Kudijaroff: I think up to about eight or nine years old they were just happy to get something that they hadn't had for a while. I think the ones above ten they said, "Hey, the Americans aren't bad at all." Yeah, they were our enemies, everybody knows it because you were indoctrinated, but they're not bad people, they give us things that we don't have, and they take care of us. So it's not a bad thing at all to know an American. I think even parents once they heard about it even got some it. I think parents then said, "You know Americans aren't bad at all." And the Russians had a bad reputation to begin with and they still didn't do anything. And then when they put the blockade their reputation even went downhill further. So I think that was a super great benefit if you want to play politics for the Western allies against the Communists.
So Halvorsen did an unintended good will diplomacy.
Kud-Kudijaroff: With that I think he did more than just diplomacy, he did good will and saying, "Hey, there are really good people in this world no matter what side they are."
Is there anything else you want to add?
Kud-Kudijaroff: Right now it's kind of a reverse thing, every time I go to Walgreens and they say, "Would you like to buy a candy for our Veterans?" I say, "Yeah, go ahead. Two or three candy bars." Yeah, I know that Hershey's used to be a nickel a bar but your salary was only $100 a month so it all equals out. I think you can spare a bar or two for the Veterans or for kids and I think they appreciate it. Don’t care where they're from, who they are, or what they're doing just kids are kids give them a break.
Kud-Kudijaroff: There were a lot of kids there. I wouldn't be surprised if there were like 500 at least. Like I said, that's on a very conservative low estimate because as far as I could see kids were all over the place. There was a fence there and you couldn't go past the fence.
And your brother told you to stay behind so you wouldn't get trampled.
Tell us again about when your father passed away.
Kud-Kudijaroff: Yeah, my father put in Visas for five countries Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and the United States. And because he had friends that immigrated to those countries and you need a sponsor to those countries, or any country you want to go you need a sponsor, and so he just wanted to get out of Germany hoping for a better life. We waited and waited and waited and then in 1954 he passed away. So mom said, "Well, he wanted to go so we might as well continue the process." And then United States was the first one to say, "Hey, you guys we've got you a Visa here." So we did the paperwork and everything else and in '56 we came over here. We got to Seattle and stayed there for about three years.
And you didn't speak a word of English?
Kud-Kudijaroff: Not a word. In fact they offered English in Germany and I said, "Why do I need that? I'm in Germany." And I spoke Russian and they required you to speak to languages in Germany so I passed my test in Russian so didn't have to take any other language. And I didn't realize that, "Boy, do I need English." My sister took English in school so she was our interpreter when we got here.
How long did it take you to learn?
Second Speaker: He was 15 years old when he came to the United States, he didn't know any English.
Kud-Kudijaroff: I'm still learning. After three years I could hold a conversation and it was good enough for me to join the Air Force. Then I met my best friend Jimmy Stanley and bill and he basically is saying he taught me everything I know. So it's an interesting journey.
It is an interesting journey, it really is.
Speaker 2: Oma didn't like to talk about those times. But one time I remember her telling me she would have to put her kids on the train and send them on to the next town and while they stayed behind. And she never knew if she'd see them again.
Was this during '48?
Speaker 2: You'd have to ask…
Kud-Kudijaroff: That's probably '44 to '46 just as the war was ending. You really had to juggle things like that. In Germany they had train cars, the cargo cars, or the tankers for fuel and things like that and on the end of the wagon there was what basically looked like an outhouse, good enough for two people, there was two seats, they were back to back. Basically it was how soldiers who were guarding the train as it was moving whatever it was it had to move. In those times a lot of them needed soldiers out in the field, they didn't need them to guard the trains so a lot of people rode the trains. And I remember Dad one time just grabbed me, my mom was already in the seat and then he heaved me up to my mom, she grabbed me and then he jumped up. But he had to jump to the other side because the train was going so he stood out there and held on to that until we go to the next stop and then he went around and then the train went on again. We rode the trains basically hoping to go to wherever has already been bombed out or that they wouldn't bomb. Busses weren't running, trains were the only things that were going, you definitely didn't fly. That was one way we got around.
And stayed safe.
Kud-Kudijaroff: Lucky. Lucky, because nobody could have predicted where they were going to bomb. The government knew all the industrial places were going to get bombed, they knew that. All our military instillations are going to get bombed, they knew that. All our government building are going to get bombed, they knew that. And I think a lot of the civilian population knew that too and they stayed away from government buildings, they didn't go report themselves as they should have when they did because you're basically playing the odds. Then bombs sometimes fell where they weren't actually intended to bomb they just miscalculated or the wind just drifted them some. And all they have to do is take them 100 yards and you're in the residence from a government building. So I would say there's a lot of luck there. Somebody up there likes you, didn't want you up there for a while.
This month-long film festival features stories from around the world showing the power of women and girls.
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