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Ya know those babies being born to Ukrainians now, my college class had one of them?

Posted by John Reed on

One of the featured scenes in tv coverage of the Ukraine invasion is of babies being born amongst the war and refugee chaos.
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My West Point classmates and I knew one of those—albeit from another war.
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WW II began on September 1, 1939 when Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union simultaneously invaded Poland from the West and East—the same Poland that has now welcomed the largest number of Ukrainian refugees—over 1.7 million and counting now.
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My mother told me that I was born nine months to the day after my draftee father returned from the war in Europe. Almost all of my West Point classmates were born under similar circumstances. We were mostly not refugees, but my mom said I was born in the hallway because the hospitals were all overwhelmed by the Baby Boom in 1946.
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That same 1946, Europe was covered with 7 to 11 million refugees, some of them pregnant.
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One who was fortunate to end up on the west side of the Iron Curtain in a displaced-persons camp in Heidenau, Germany was a Ukrainian woman named Isabella Neswiacheny. She gave birth to a boy whom she named Bohdan.
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In 1951, his family got a sponsor who enabled them to move to Somerville, NJ.
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What becomes of a child born in such chaotic, inauspicious circumstances?
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To answer that regarding Bohdan, I refer you to JFK Memorial Stadium in Philadelphia on Saturday, December 2, 1967. Just before the Army-Navy Game was kicked off, the respective team captains met the referees at midfield for the coin toss. The Army team captain was Bohdan, whom my classmates and I knew as Buddy. He also played lacrosse.
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We lost the game 19-14, the only loss to Navy during my four years as a cadet.
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They made several recruiting movies about West Point back in the 1950s and 1960s. One, made when we were there in 1967-8, starred Buddy Neswiacheny. https://johntreed.com/.../1967-west-point-recruiting-film
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Did I know Buddy? A little bit. We were part of a small number of cadets who studied Russian language for four years. We were also both in Second Regiment. Second Regiment had the same class schedule. First regiment took classes together on different days than we had those classes.
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Initially, I thought I was one of top Russian students at West Point. Then I learned there was a whole separate, better section called “Advanced Russian.” Those guys were chosen for that section because they spoke Russian or a similar language like Ukrainian growing up. They had names like Neswiacheny, Popov, Grabowski, Jaworski, Kulikowski.
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My name, Reed gave no hint of my speaking Russian. My high school transcript said I had done well in French, Spanish, and German but had no mention of the Russian I had studied extensively on my own at home. And they did not change which group you were assigned to after they figured out there were a couple of us invisible Russian speakers in the class.
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I guess they combined the advanced and normal classes junior and senior years thereby putting Buddy and me in the same elective classes where we studied subjects like military Russian. He was also in the Russian Club, of which I was an officer.
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Senior year, before the Army-Navy game, ABC sports announcer Howard Cosell came up to West Point to film a special on Buddy. Cosell called it “going up to The Point.” We cadets hated the phrase “The Point” (which is inexplicably the title of the above recruiting film). They filmed Buddy’s Russian class, which included me, coming into the classroom during our normally scheduled class.
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Normally, we would be joking and kidding around, but with all the lights and cameras, we clammed up. They chewed us out for not talking. We told them we would have if we had been so instructed, but we assumed no such instruction meant they wanted no talking. They did not have time to refilm the scene. I never saw the finished program.
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His older brother was killed in Vietnam. Buddy did two tours in Vietnam. You had to extend the first to do that in my class. I do not know of any other classmates who did two tours there. We did not get to Vietnam until 1969 and the war was winding down preventing any normal rotation elsewhere then back to Vietnam through a second tour.
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He spent the rest of his Army time coaching football at West Point.
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He was in the Army for nine years after graduation. He became a lawyer at U. of Miami in 1979. Around that time, he also coached football at the Miami Hurricanes. His legal specialty was insurance company defense. He died October 9, 2018. In Orange Park, FL.
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German rocket scientist Werner von Braun was often criticized about his rockets, “What good is a rocket?” “What good is a baby?” he asked back.
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It takes a while to find out.
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RIP Buddy.

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