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Letter from Larissa Prychodko to John Panchuk

Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

Many Displaced Persons (DPs) in postwar Europe could not return to their homes. Jewish survivors often faced antisemitism and violence from former neighbors—many of whom had taken possession of Jewish homes or businesses during the Holocaust.1 Other DPs faced political persecution in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. Founded in 1946, the International Refugee Organization (IRO) helped DPs looking for new homes to navigate the complex immigration requirements of many different countries throughout the world.2

Many DPs—like Larissa Prychodko and her husband Vasyl—hoped to immigrate to the United States. In order to secure a visa through the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, the Prychodkos needed to find a sponsor in the United States. After months of searching, the Ukrainian couple connected with John Panchuk, president of the Michigan chapter of the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC). Relief agencies like UUARC provided crucial support for immigrants from several national groups, such as Lithuanians, Poles, and Ukrainians.3

On August 5, 1949, Larissa sent this letter to John Panchuk to thank him for sponsoring the family's application for DP status. John Panchuk's sponsorship and the UUARC's financial support made it possible for the Prydochkos to immigrate to the US under the provisions of the DP Act. The letter was sent as the family traveled from the DP camp at Butzbach to Bremen, Germany. Camp Grohn, the DP camp at Bremen, was the last temporary home for many DPs before leaving Europe from the nearby port of Bremerhaven.4 The Prychodkos left for the US on the General Muir, a US military transport ship.

When they settled in Detroit, Larissa became an adjunct faculty member in Slavic Studies at Wayne State University (WSU), where her husband became a professor in Biology. They became prominent members of the Ukrainian community in Michigan, organizing funding for the Slavic Department at WSU and giving talks about Ukrainian culture at the University of Michigan.

Immigrant communities—like the Prychodkos' Ukrainian American network in Michigan—provided crucial support for DPs immigrating to the US after World War II. Ukrainians relied heavily on the support of the UUARC. By 1952, the committee would help bring roughly 33,000 Ukrainian DPs to the US and another 50,000 Ukrainian DPs to Canada, Australia, and several South American countries. Once the DPs arrived in the US, local UUARC committees helped find them housing and connected them to the local Ukrainian American community. The Michigan chapter of the UUARC found the Prychodko family a place to live in Hamtramck, Michigan—the center of the Ukrainian American community in the Detroit area.

A 1946 pogrom in Kielce, Poland, for example, Nkilled at least 42 Jews, some of whom had only recently returned to the city following years of imprisonment in Nazi camps.

For more on the IRO, see Louise W. Holborn, The International Refugee Organization: A Specialized Agency of the United Nations: Its History and Its Work, 1946–1952 (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1956). See also a source in this collection, Film of Displaced Persons Registering with the International Refugee Organization.

The Prychodkos identified as Ukrainian, but shifting national boundaries could make identities flexible or vaguely defined. On the passenger manifest of the General Muir, for instance, Larissa is registered as Russian and her husband is identified as Polish. Overlapping cultural, religious, and linguistic traditions in European borderlands could blur national categories even further.

For more on the importance of Bremerhaven as a point of departure, see the related Experiencing History item, Film of Displaced Persons Boarding a Ship in Bremerhaven, Germany.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan
Source Number John Panchuk Papers, Box 2
Date Created
August 5, 1949
Author / Creator
Larissa Prychodko
Frankfurt, Germany
Reference Location
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Document Type Letter
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