Bill Leshinetsky on Refugee Experience in World War II

The following clip relates to the Ohio Department of Education curriculum for Social Studies education through:

  • Modern World History Content Statement #4 – Historians analyze cause, effect, sequence and correlation in historical events, including multiple causation and long- and short-term causal relations.
  • Modern World History Content Statement #19 – Treaties and agreements at the end of World War II changed national boundaries and created multinational organizations.
  • World Geography Content Statement #8 – Physical, cultural, economic, and political factors contribute to human migrations (e.g. drought, religious conflicts, job opportunities, immigration laws).



Bill Leshinetsky is a Ukrainian immigrant and representative of the Ukrainian Cultural Garden in Cleveland, Ohio. He spent several years in Slovakia, Austria, and Germany during World War II and immigrated to the United States in 1950 as a refugee. In this story clip, he recounts his experience as a student in Munich and describes the large displaced Ukrainian population in Germany in the latter part of World War II. He also discusses how he did not have much of a choice in 1944 between following the retreating German army out of Ukraine or remaining in his homeland and risk being drafted into the Soviet Army.

Potential Classroom Applications:

This story clip provides insight into the life of a refugee and the profound effects war can have on civilian populations. His description of large moving Ukrainian communities speaks to the importance of displaced persons in maintaining some semblance of national unity despite being removed from their homeland. His story describes perhaps one of the more disruptive causes of immigration, that of those forced to flee in the wake of armed conflict and the strong ties they bring with them to their native lands.

See this clip used in a model lesson plan on

Follow this link for the whole interview: Bill Leshinetsky Interview, 2005.

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