Family Archives - StoryCorps

On The Day Their Concentration Camp Was Liberated, Two Former Prisoners Found Love

In 1945, the Allied forces arrived at the Theresienstadt concentration camp and liberated thousands of prisoners – many of whom were Jewish. The front gates swung open and anyone who was able wandered into the nearby town in search of food and clothing. But one woman, Mina Bergman, was sick with typhus, barefoot, and unable to walk.

Mina’s sister set off, promising to bring back whatever she could find. She returned with Yehuda Czarnoczapka, who introduced himself and gave Mina a few potatoes and a pair of shoes he’d found.

“I think the efforts he went through won her over,” said Susan Moinester.

Passports of Mina Czarnoczapka and Yehuda Czarnoczapka issued in a displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria, after their release. Photos courtesy of Susan Moinester.

Despite the trauma, her parents endured, and Susan remembers growing up in a home filled with love. Her mother had a particular thirst for life that remained unaffected by the war. She loved to attend parties, see Broadway performances, and encouraged her daughters to date and have fun. “That was the harshest demand she placed on me,” remembers Moinester.

Mina Czarnoczapka and Yehuda Czarnoczapka in a displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria in 1945. Photo courtesy of Susan Moinester.

Like many Holocaust survivors, Yehuda and Mina have passed away, but each year Susan and family honor their story of their liberation and enduring romance.

Top photo: Margot and Susan Moinester in Memphis, Tennessee in 2022. Photo courtesy of Susan Moinester.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired January 27, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A Couple Reflects On The Crossroads of Their Relationship

In 1999 Tom Peters met JoAn Joseph at a party for his job. Tom felt obligated to attend, and  JoAn tagged along with a friend who didn’t want to go alone. And yet, they locked eyes from across the room, and danced and talked the night away. 

 

Tom Peters and JoAn Peters in 2000. Courtesy of Tom Peters.

They fell in love and their relationship moved quickly, even though Tom was much older than JoAn and had already been married twice with three children. But a couple of years into their relationship, they came to a crossroads, and had to make a difficult decision.

Tom Peters and JoAn Peters at their StoryCorps interview in Santa Monica, California on January 6, 2020. By Courtney Gilbert for StoryCorps.

Tom and JoAn came to StoryCorps to reflect on that moment, and their journey since.


Top Photo:  JoAn Peters and Tom Peters in 2001. Courtesy of Tom Peters.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired January 20, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Fear” Wasn’t A Word His Father Knew: The Origins Of A Civil Rights Leader

Rev. Harry Blake grew up working on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. At an early age, he learned the delicate balance between standing up for yourself and survival.

Entering adulthood he was drawn to the ministry, eventually becoming the Pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church, where he served for many decades.

Rev. Harry Blake in the mid 1960s as a young Pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church courtesy of Monica Mickle.

Blake became active in the Civil Rights movement and was invited by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to work for him at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He survived beatings, arrests and even an assassination attempt. 

Rev. Harry Blake (c) talks with Shreveport police outside a memorial service at the Little Union Baptist Church on Sept. 22, 1963. Local authorities refused a permit to hold a memorial for four girls killed in a bomb blast in Birmingham, Ala., several days earlier. When it appeared a march would be held anyway, a tense confrontation ensued. © Langston McEachern, Port Huron Times Herald via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In 2017 Rev. Blake came to StoryCorps with his daughter Monica Mickle.  At the age of 85, Rev. Harry Blake Died from COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic.

Top Photo: Monica Mickle and Rev. Harry Blake at their StoryCorps interview in Shreveport, Louisiana on October 30, 2017. By Madison Mullen for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired on January 13, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

 

Transcending Blindness, a Marathon Runner Thanks His Daughter for Her Support

Jason Romero suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that causes progressive blindness. In 2015, he was forced to stop driving and quit his job, which plunged him into a deep depression. But Jason was most concerned about how it would impact his family.

“The most important thing to me is to be a good dad to you and your brother and your sister, and I just didn’t know how I was going to be able to do it if I couldn’t see,” he said.

Jason Romero and his youngest daughter, Sofia Romero, in San Diego, California in August 2022. Courtesy Jason Romero.

Jason turned to running as a way to prove that he could push his body past what people thought possible. After becoming an ultramarathon runner, he had the seemingly crazy idea of being the first blind person to run across the United States. So he hit the road.

Jason Romero in his 2016 run across the United States. Courtesy Jason Romero.

In 2016, he set off on a 3,063 mile, 59 day run from Los Angeles to New York City. But while he was away, he thought about his family – especially his youngest daughter, Sofia.

Top Photo: Sofia Romero and Jason Romero in Denver, Colorado on January 4, 2023. By Esther Honig for StoryCorps.

Originally aired January 6, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 

Two Love Birds Bring The Holiday Spirit To The White House

Growing up in Piura, Peru Hugo Sánchez always noticed his classmate, Marité. But despite his best efforts she didn’t return his feelings. Hugo left Peru for the U.S. with his family at the age of 13, but returned for a summer vacation three years later.

This time, there was a spark. The two kicked up a whirlwind romance, but they were ripped apart as he returned to the states.  

Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez in 2007 in Urbana, IL. Courtesy of Marité Sánchez for StoryCorps.

In 2022 the couple had been married for 15 years and through Marité’s work as an expert crafter they were selected to volunteer as White House holiday decorators. Every holiday season, people from across the country are invited by First Lady Jill Biden to decorate the White House.

 

Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez at the White House Decorating Event in Washington, D.C. in November 2022. Courtesy of Marité Sánchez for StoryCorps.

Hugo and Marité Sánchez took a break from wreath making and tinsel spreading to record a conversation with StoryCorps.

 

Top Photo: Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez at their StoryCorps interview in Washington, D.C. on November 27, 2022. By Bella Gonzalez for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired December 23, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

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10 Years After Sandy Hook: Remembering Jesse Lewis

On the morning of December 14, 2012, a gunman killed twenty six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty of them were between the ages of 6 and 7.

Six-year-old Jesse Lewis was among those killed.

Jesse Lewis posing for his mom, Scarlett Lewis, on the morning of December 14, 2012. He stands in front of Scarlett’s car, on which he’d written, ‘I love you’ and drawn hearts in the frost. Photo courtesy of Scarlett Lewis.

His mother Scarlett Lewis has spent the subsequent ten years founding and leading the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, dedicated to creating safer and more loving communities.

She and her mother Maureen came to StoryCorps to share their memories of Jesse and the importance of gratitude.

Maureen Lewis (left) and Scarlett Lewis at their StoryCorps interview in Sandy Hook, Connecticut on November 27, 2022. By Halle Hewitt for StoryCorps.

 

Top Photo: Jesse Lewis posing for his first grade school photo at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Fall, 2012. Photo courtesy of Scarlett Lewis.

Your support makes it possible for StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit, to collect, archive, and share the stories of people from all backgrounds because everyone’s stories deserve to be heard.

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“It’s hard all the time.”: A Decade of Agony Since Sandy Hook Shooting

On December 14, 2012, a shooter opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six educators. Avielle was one of the children murdered that day. She was six years old at the time.

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Jeremy and Jennifer sat down for StoryCorps in 2017 to remember Avielle.

After Avielle’s death, Jeremy and Jennifer had two more children, Imogen and Owen. They also started The Avielle Foundation, a neuroscience non-profit that conducts brain research in order to understand the underpinnings of violence and how to build compassion.

Bottom photo: Jeremy and Jennifer with their daughter, Avielle, at her kindergarten graduation in 2012. Courtesy of Jeremy Richman.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help at 1-800-273-8255.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Originally aired on December 09, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition

Your support makes it possible for StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit, to collect, archive, and share the stories of people from all backgrounds because everyone’s stories deserve to be heard.

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“It Feels Like a Gift”: How Taking a Name Kept One Man’s Legacy Alive

In 1981, the death of 21-year-old Cameroonian man Acha Mbiwan devastated his family. Losing Acha — known for his mischievous sense of humor and prodigious intelligence — sent shockwaves through the family’s tight-knit community.  

For more than 40 years, they found it difficult to even speak about Acha. But little did they know that Acha had befriended an American man in college named Atiba, who was so moved by Acha’s death that he took his friend’s last name, Mbiwan, as a tribute.

In 2012, Acha’s sisters Didi Ndando and Egbe Monjimbo learned of Atiba’s existence after stumbling across him on the internet. All three sat down for StoryCorps to talk about what happened next.

This story was adapted from the StoryCorps Podcast. To hear the full story, listen to the episode: “One Who Is Understanding

Top Photo: Didi Ndando, Atiba Mbiwan, and Egbe Monjimbo at a reunion for Atiba’s family in Atlanta in 2014. Courtesy of Egbe Monjimbo.
Middle Photo: Acha Mbiwan posing in a photo booth in 1980 in Paris, France. Courtesy of Egbe Monjimbo.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Originally aired December 2, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition

Your support makes it possible for StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit, to collect, archive, and share the stories of people from all backgrounds because everyone’s stories deserve to be heard.

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How An Unexpected Deportation Cut A Young Musician’s Career Short

Decio Rubano still remembers the day he learned to play the drums. He was 12- years-old and playing stickball outside his home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when his uncle Jimmy pulled up in his car. It was the start of WWll and Jimmy, a working musician, had just lost his drummer to the Army. Rubano remembers his uncle saying, “Hey kid, I need a drummer tonight, so you’re going to play.” Jimmy took out two spoons and showed Rubano how different beats were played.

From that first performance, Rubano says he got “the bug” and couldn’t stop making music. After high school, his career as a drummer was taking off until one night, when he was visiting his grandparents, a pair of immigration officers knocked on the door—Rubano was quickly deported to Montreal, Canada.

Middle Photo: At 17 years-old, Decio Rubano began his professional drumming career when he was scouted to play on the Arthur Godfrey radio show in Miami. Courtesy of Gina Livingston.

Rubano had been born in Montreal because his opera singer mother had taken a job for the season at the Montreal Civic Opera while pregnant with Rubano. As a young man, Rubano was shocked to learn he was not a U.S. citizen.

Rubano signed up for the U.S. Air Force and served in the Korean War. While he continued playing the drums for many years, he never returned to the music business. At StoryCorps, Rubano tells his daughter, Gina Livingston, “I did one thing right in my life. I raised you. You’ve been a joy as a daughter. Everybody should be as lucky as I am.”

Bottom Photo: While stationed on Johnston Island with the US Air Force, Decio Rubano hosted a jazz radio station in his spare time.  Courtesy of Gina Livingston. 

Top Photo: Decio Rubano and Gina Livingston at their StoryCorps interview in Decatur, Georgia on October 31, 2022. By John St. Denis for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired November 11, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Your support makes it possible for StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit, to collect, archive, and share the stories of people from all backgrounds because everyone’s stories deserve to be heard.

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“We Lived Happily Ever After”: Milt And Etta Share Their Love Story

In the summer of 1955, Milt Ehrlich knew he’d met the love of his life. Her name was Etta, and they were both applying to be counselors at a summer camp for children with special needs. 

“You’re going to marry me,” he told her. She was initially unsure, so much so she made Milt wait 5 years before ultimately saying yes. 

Throughout her life, Etta was consumed by her art and appreciated Milt’s enthusiasm for helping her find the raw materials she would use. He frequented garage sales to hunt for objects such as tools or bottles — so long as they had charm.

Etta and Milt Ehrlich in Prince Edward Island, Canada in the early 1980s. Photo courtesy of the Ehrlich family.

In 2014, the couple came to StoryCorps to record the story of their love, and talk about how they used art and creativity as a vehicle for grappling with aging, grief, and the fear of death. 

They were married for almost 62 years, until Etta’s death in August of 2021. She was 90 years old. Milt came back to StoryCorps a year later to remember her. 

 

Top Photo: Milt and Etta Ehrlich on their wedding anniversary in Prince Edward Island, Canada in August. 1985. Photo courtesy of the Ehrlich family.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired Nov. 4, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Your support makes it possible for StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit, to collect, archive, and share the stories of people from all backgrounds because everyone’s stories deserve to be heard.

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