It has been over a month since I last wrote of the predicament my aunts found themselves in as American refugees who ended up in the temporary capital of the Soviet Union—Kuibyshev—after they were pushed from their home in Novgorod. To recap, the Germany forces had invaded the USSR in June 1941, and Dad’s family had fled Novgorod two months later just days before that city fell. They spent five months moving approximately one thousand miles eastward, both on foot and by train. Dad had fortuitously been able to return to New Jersey a short time before all civilian travel had been suspended.
My grandparents found themselves living in a train station, but my aunts had been permitted to reside in the Grand Hotel. By late February, 1942, they were all told they must leave the city. They had been appealing for help in returning to New Jersey to both the American Embassy and my father, who was then stationed in Atlanta, Georgia. My aunts hoped that if someone would provide the funds, or at least a loan, they could stall for time and remain in Kuibyshev until the money arrived.
My father continued to press the State Department for financial assistance until, finally, on March 3, he received a letter stating “While the Department, since the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, has on occasion made advances from limited special funds at its disposal for loans to needy Americans to enable then to return to the United States from disturbed areas, funds are not at present being advanced to Americans desiring to return from the USSR, nor do the Department’s representatives in that country have funds at their disposal to provide for the maintenance of Americans there.”
He must have been so discouraged to read this. The letter went on to say that “in case you are able to obtain financial assistance from other sources, the Department will be pleased to accept without responsibility funds for transmission to your sisters through official channels by telegraph at your expense either for their subsistence or for their journey to the United States, and the representatives in Kuibyshev will be pleased to render them such assistance as may be possible in the circumstances.”
The bottom line was that our embassy and State Department knew Dad’s family was stuck there without any funds since none of them had been employed for at least six months. Although the State Department admitted that they did provide loans for some needy Americans to return home, there was no money available for US citizens wanting to return home from this part of the world.
It was all about the dollar, and it was up to Dad to figure out how to get the money. He was just a twenty-three year old young man in the army, thousands of miles away, and the world was at war. It must have been such a heavy weight for him to carry. What would he do?