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Abe Kropp: "We always have appreciated the way the United States helped us."

Abe Kropp sits on a white porch wearing a white v-neck t-shirt. He looks to the camera.
Beth Pike
The State Historical Society of Missouri

Abe Kropp spoke with the Missouri on Mic team at the Missouri State Fair last August. He spoke about his family migrating to Missouri as refugees from the Eastern Bloc.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Abe Kropp: I grew up most of my life here in the United States, actually here in Missouri, originally was born in West Germany.

I was born in Hildesheim, although my family actually lived in a little town a little ways away from there called Hoheneggelsen.

And then, in 1952, they fled and immigrated—we were refugees—they came to the United States via New Orleans. We ended up in Cole Camp in Missouri.

And eventually, after a number of years settled near Sedalia, Missouri.

Well, actually, my grandfather was, has a lengthy story to it. Basically, he was actually a German that lived in Poland.

And they live there until World War II, when Poland was basically divided by Russia and by Germany.

And then they lived in a community which had a lot of Germans, but they were not treated right by anyone because most of them, nobody trusted them.

The Polish didn't trust them because they said had German heritage. The Russians, of course, were coming in then.

Lo and behold, in 1949, I was born.

My mother met my stepfather, whose name was Ernest Slender. He also had escaped from being in a—actually one of those camps or Russian concentration camps.

When he went in, he weighed about 150. When he left, he weighed about 90 pounds—barely survived.

He was able to get out.

And we finally were able to leave—in the time we ended up in a, actually the families over there in Hoheneggelsen had to share homes with everybody with all the refugees because there were so many of them.

In fact, we didn't have much to eat. Myself, got food poisoning from a lot of the bad food that was there.

But anyhow, we finally got our visas. You had to go through the lengthy process, check, make sure nobody was ill, and everything else to go to the United States.

Plus, you had to have a sponsor. In the United States, our sponsor was St. John's Lutheran Church, located on Cheese Creek, in the Cole Camp area.

Then you also had to have a family sponsor it, and it was Alonso and Cornelia Boychers, who sponsored and signed agreement that we would – they would provide for us and make sure that we had a job and would not be a burden to the government.

So that's how our family got here. We always have appreciated the way the United States helped us.

And I think that's the United States should be the same—they should do the same in conjunction with many other countries.

And they need to prioritize that with those people who are actually in danger, or who have no home who are actually refugees from some other country, fleeing domestic violence, maybe, or even aggressions, as we see in so many other countries today.

Kailan Dixon is a summer journalism fellow from North Carolina A&T State University.
Caoilinn left KBIA in December of 2022.
Caoilinn Goss is the Audio Convergence Editor at KBIA. She trains and oversees student reporters, editors and anchors to produce daily afternoon newscasts. She's also a Missouri Journalism School alum.