Identity 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. 

From the Oscars Stage, She Sacrificed Her Career To Make Way For Indigenous Voices

From a young age, Sacheen Littlefeather knew racism through experience. Her mother was white and her father was of White Mountain Apache and Yaqui heritage. When she was born in Arizona in 1946, mixed-race couples were still illegal there. Raised by her white grandparents, it wasn’t until she went to university that she says she met people she could identify with. 

She began her activism there and continued pressing for equal rights and representation while pursuing a career in the arts.

Her career was forever changed in 1973, when she used what would have been Marlon Brando’s Oscar acceptance speech to call out the treatment of Native Americans and their depiction in Hollywood.

She came to StoryCorps in 2019 to talk about how that historic night changed her life and paved the way for those who came after.

Top Photo: Sacheen Littlefeather at her StoryCorps interview in Novato, California on October 2, 2019. By Rochelle Kwan for StoryCorps.
Bottom Photo: Sacheen Littlefeather at the Academy Awards ceremony on March 27, 1973. By the Associated Press.

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 October 7, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Without Memory: A Love Story From Two Veterans

Matthew Perry wanted to be a Marine since he was 6-years old. He enlisted around 2005, and by 2008 he was serving in Afghanistan. 

One day, while on duty, he was hit by three IEDs in the course of a single day. But the lasting impacts of his traumatic brain injuries wouldn’t be felt until years later.

In 2010, while on leave from the Marines, a friend would introduce him to a college student named Helen. The two became inseparable after that, and would marry a couple of years later. 

But in 2014, Helen got a call from Kings Bay Naval Base – where Matthew was stationed at the time – with news that something was terribly wrong.

The hands of Helen and Matthew on July 15, 2014, while Matt was in the hospital in Brunswick, GA after his seizures started. Courtesy of Helen Perry. 

Capt. Helen Perry and Sgt. Matthew Perry came to StoryCorps to talk about what happened next.

Helen, Ethan, and Matthew on Jan 5, 2022 at Fort Clinch State park in Florida. Courtesy of Helen Perry. 
Top Photo: Helen and Matthew Perry after Helen’s promotion to Captain in July of 2015, at the Brooke Army Medical Center. Courtesy of Helen Perry. 

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 October 1st, 2022, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

The Chief of a Louisiana Tribe Reflects on Being Displaced by Climate Change

Members of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation are slowly leaving the land they’ve lived and farmed on for generations… as stronger and more frequent storms hit the Louisiana coastline. 

Chief Albert Naquin remembers growing up on Isle de Jean Charles, LA in the 1950s. He came to StoryCorps with his nephew, Démé Naquin Jr., who also grew up on the island. 

Middle Photo: Démé Naquin Jr., looking out on the Jean Charles tribe’s ancestral burial ground on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. By Von Diaz for StoryCorps.

Hurricanes are common across the region, but climate change has increased the frequency and destructiveness of these storms, leading to flooding and coastal erosion, and destroying homes and local infrastructure. 

Chief Naquin believes relocation is crucial for his community to keep them safe and preserve their history and culture. Since 2002 he’s made multiple attempts to acquire the funds and support needed to move the remaining families off the island and reunite the tribe in a new community on higher ground. But his efforts have been stunted by numerous factors, including the inability to reach consensus within their tribal council, and a planned move that was halted when community members in neighboring Bourg, Louisiana protested the tribe’s relocation there. 

 At StoryCorps, he spoke with his nephew about their memories of the island, and their shared hope for their entire community to be together again.

Top Photo: Chief Albert Naquin and Démé Naquin Jr. at their StoryCorps interview in Montegut, Louisiana on September 17, 2022. By Zanna McKay for StoryCorps.
Bottom Photo: An abandoned home on Isle de Jean Charles, with a sign reading, “Isle de Charles is not dead. Climate change sucks.” By Von Diaz 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 September 23, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Why He Was Unknown Is A Mystery”: Remembering One Gay Man Who Sued For The Right To Work

In the 1970s, Faygele ben Miriam returned from serving overseas in the Army during the Vietnam war, and he settled in Seattle, Washington. Born John Singer, he changed his name to Faygele – meaning “little bird’ in Yiddish – to reclaim its derogatory use for “effeminate gay men.” And to honor his mother, he added “ben Miriam,” literally meaning “Little Bird, son of Miriam.” 

Faygele was an explosive character, and he often challenged his friends and colleagues to think of freedom in everything from how they dressed to who they stood up for, and at what cost. He was willing to put everything on the line – even his own safety – if it meant making the world a better place to live. And he earned the trust of his peers for taking bold, direct action. In 1971, Faygele applied for a marriage license with his friend and lover, Paul Barwick, an act that was unthinkable at the time.

Being so open, he was known for often wearing dresses in public because he was unafraid to proclaim his sexuality, no matter what room he was in. And in 1974, his frankness set the stage for a discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), when they unjustly fired him for his sexuality.

Ronni Gilboa and Patrick Haggerty at their StoryCorps interview in Bremerton, Washington on August 13, 2022. By Bella Gonzalez for StoryCorps.

Faygele died in 2000, at the age of 55. And recently, Faygele’s friends, Patrick Haggerty and Ronni Gilboa, came to StoryCorps to remember the man who left an indelible mark on their lives. 

Top Photo: Faygele ben Miriam at his last Seder before his death in 2000. Courtesy of the University of Washington Library, Geoff Manasse special collection.

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 September 16, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“Charlottesville Shouldn’t Be Discussed”: But This Local Refused to Forget

On August 12, 2017, hundreds of white nationalists converged on Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a Confederate monument. The “Unite the Right” rally became deadly when a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring more than a dozen others.

Charlottesville resident, 52-year-old Lisa Woolfork was in that crowd, and she was at the intersection where the car attack took place. The shock from that violent day remains with her. But as she told Kendall King-Sellars, who was also in the crowd that day, not everyone wants to talk about it.

Counter-protest to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017. Courtesy of Lisa Woolfork.

Today, Lisa is an associate professor at the University of Virginia, and she now runs her own sewing group, “Black Women Stitch,” and podcast, “Stitch Please.”

Lisa and Kendall’s conversation is brought to you by One Small Step at the University of Virginia’s Karsh Institute of Democracy, with support from the Memory Project at UVA and WTJU.

Top Photo: Lisa Woolfork (Left) and Kendall King-Sellars (Right). Courtesy of Lisa Woolfork and Kendall King-Sellars.

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 August 12, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

An Adoptee Reflects On The Mother-Daughter Bond That Carried Her Through the Loss Of Her Birth Family

In 2000, Jami Miyamoto traveled to China during the era of the “One Child” Policy to adopt a 10-month old baby girl. Originally, Jami had the name “Maya” in mind, but after spending time with her daughter, Jami stuck with her given name, Delian, and they use the shortened name of “Daily” today. 

Jami holding 10-month-old Daily in China, June of 2000. Courtesy of Jami Miyamoto.

Daily doesn’t remember when she first learned that she was adopted. Her mother has always talked openly about it. They both hope to know more about Daily’s birth family, and it’s a curiosity that reinforces their bond.

Recently, Daily and Jami came to StoryCorps to reflect on their closeness, and what it means to Daily to look into her past.

Top Photo: Daily and Jami Miyamoto in Santa Monica, CA on July 26, 2022. Courtesy of Daily Miyamoto.

Originally aired Friday, July 29, 2022, 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.

After 82 Years, A Grandfather Inspires His Grandson To Live Full Of Honesty And Love

When Jeffrey Perri was growing up in Rochester, New York, his grandfather, Tony Perri, came out to him as gay. Jeffrey was only 9 years old. Years later, Jeffrey also came out, and what was already a close relationship became something even more meaningful for both of them.

They originally came to StoryCorps to reflect on their stories and relationship in 2009

Tony had remained friends with Jeffrey’s grandmother, Shirley Perri, after they divorced, and Tony went on to have two more long term relationships. These men were “uncles” to Jeffrey, and Tony modeled loving relationships throughout Jeffrey’s childhood.

Now, in 2022, Jeffrey and Tony returned to StoryCorps to reflect on their shared connection — and Tony’s feelings about aging and family.

 

Top Photo:
Jeffrey Perri and Tony Perri on May 7th, 2022 at a family wedding. Courtesy of Jeffery Perri. (L) 
Jeffrey Perri and Tony Perri at their StoryCorps interview in Rochester, NY on July 11, 2009. By Jeremy Helton for StoryCorps. (R)

Originally aired July 22, 2022, 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.

“Our Father Taught Us To Love Ourself”: Remembering The Man Who Brought Juneteenth To San Diego

Long before Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in the U.S., Sidney Cooper had been celebrating the hallowed day for decades.

Sidney grew up in a predominantly Black town just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Juneteenth celebrations were a common part of his upbringing.

In the early 1950s, Sidney settled down in Southern California, and he became an early Black business owner in a predominantly white area.


Sidney Cooper (center) with his daughter, Lana (left), and his wife, Thelma (right), in front of the Cooper family barbershop and produce stand on Imperial Avenue. Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.

Sidney taught his children many lessons on family and community, but he also taught them the importance of celebrating Juneteenth — even when no one else in his community was acknowledging the holiday.


Marla Cooper celebrating at the family’s annual Juneteenth celebration in San Diego. Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.

A banner honoring the memory of Sidney Cooper at the family’s annual Juneteenth celebration.
Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.

His daughters, Marla and Lana, came to StoryCorps to remember their dad and the legacy he left in his community.

Top Photo: Lana Cooper-Jones and Marla Cooper at their StoryCorps interview in San Diego, CA on May 11, 2022 for StoryCorps.

Originally aired Friday, June 17, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“We’re Just Big Guys Dancing”: How One Man Found His Calling As A Mavs ManiAAC

When Rob Maiden was a kid, he was a little bigger than some of his classmates. And during one summer, he shot up from 5’6” to 6’3”, becoming the tallest one in his family. His father — a huge football enthusiast — couldn’t wait to watch Rob play football.

But Rob found his calling in another sport: a hip hop dance group of self-proclaimed “beefy” men who perform during Dallas Mavericks basketball games.

Mavs ManiAACs at a Dallas Mavericks game performance. Courtesy of Daniel Jacob.

Rob came to StoryCorps with his friend Daniel Jacob, to talk about how they both ended up as part of the Mavs ManiAACs, and how Rob’s father eventually saw him do what he was “born to do.”

Top Photo: Daniel Jacob and Rob Maiden at their StoryCorps interview in Dallas, TX in 2014. Photo by Liyna Anwar for StoryCorps.

Originally aired April 22, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.