My name is Karen Wardamasky Bobrow. I am a former mathematician and computer programmer turned genealogist/ancestor stalker from New Jersey now living in South Carolina. I am a mother and a grandmother. I used my analytical skills, along with extensive genealogy research, to assemble my father’s unusual story about an American boy growing up in the Soviet Union.
While my friends’ fathers told stories of playing baseball or fishing in the local pond, my dad spun tales of mingling with Russian assassins and later trying to warn a United States Intelligence Agent of the Pearl Harbor attack. He would then casually mention that he had the papers to prove it, but I never asked to see the evidence. Like many children, I was too busy studying, spending time with my friends, and later raising my own family to take the time to learn the details of his incredible story. When I finally asked, he responded by saying, “I don’t remember.”
Do Svidanya Dad: Tracing the Story of an American Family Trapped in the USSR is the tale of a little-known piece of U.S. history about Americans who immigrated to the Soviet Union during the Great Depression seeking a better life. It details what happened to my father and his family while they were living in Russia under the regime of Joseph Stalin as well as explains their struggles in returning to the United States after the outbreak of the Second World War.
This book is the result of years of research which was aided by the discovery of a tattered diary in my father’s dresser along with the discovery of memos, telegrams, and letters stored at the National Archives. I hope the reader finishes the book with a sense of urgency to sit down with their elder relatives and learn their story before they are gone.
If only I had taken my own advice, I would have finished this story years ago, and perhaps, my father would have known I was sharing his story.
That is my biggest regret.
On a December evening in 1931, a twelve year old boy leaves his familiar life behind as he and his family sail out of New York Harbor on the first leg of their journey to the Soviet Union. His immigrant parents left their New Jersey home because they had been lured by the promises of plentiful jobs.
Years later that boy would tell his children a few stories about his youth, but he never discussed the details. No one asked how his family traveled to the Soviet Union to escape the Great Depression or what it was like to return alone just months before the United States became involved in the Second World War.
That boy was my father.
After his death, I began to piece together the puzzle of my father’s life. I made it my mission to learn what horrors his family suffered in Russia and the role he played in bringing them home. Genealogy research was the key to unlocking the story of my unusual family history. Do Svidanya Dad is the story of that boy—Marty—the man I called Dad.
It means “until we meet again.”