Albert Petschel - A CARE Donor Story
The Petschel family originally moved from Germany to Yugoslavia in 1783. The Austrian government offered people tracts of land for people to farm and, although it was swampy and required a great deal of work, the Petschel family drained it and grew corn, wheat and hemp.
Mr. Petschel was born in October of 1941 in Torshavn, Yugoslavia. He had one older brother Michael. His father was a mason. When his mother passed away in 1942, his grandparents each took care of one of the boys so their father could work. Their town was the scene of a great deal of guerilla warfare during World War II.
At the age of three, the Germans told Albert's family to leave. They traveled by horse and wagon to Germany but, when Spring came, the Russians came and they were forced to move again, this time to Vienna, Austria. The Austrian government took their horses and they were put on trains where they ended up in a former POW camp in Tyrol. This camp had a factory inside a mountain where they manufactured aircraft parts. Mr. Petschel's grandfather was fluent in several languages and worked as a translator for the refugees in the camp. This was a difficult period as food was scarce. To this day, Mr. Petschel is revolted by the sight of polenta, a main staple during his time here.
In 1945, the family was transferred to another Displaced Persons camp and the situation slowly improved. The Petschels had relatives in Philadelphia who sent them CARE packages. These were joyous occasions and everyone gathered around to see what had arrived. Bags of 9 O'clock Coffee were invaluable to the family because their father would walk 8-10 miles up into the mountains where he was able to trade the coffee for meat, eggs and chicks. "It was worth its weight in gold," said Albert. He lived for the chocolate that came in the boxes. His grandmother would give each boy one square a day. One time, they discovered the entire bar and ate it all at once. He remembers kneeling in the corner as punishment! His greatest memory, however, is of the joyous celebrations they had when they received the CARE packages.
The family left for the U.S. on March 24, 1952. They were originally supposed to go to Oklahoma with relatives but an uncle signed for them and they settled in South River, New Jersey. Albert finished high school in Union City. He and his brother both attended Rutgers University and then Albert went on to get his Masters in Biochemistry and his brother, Mike, received his Ph.D. in Chemistry.
Albert married and had three children. They now have five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Mike, also a longtime CARE donor, died in December 2017. Albert has written a thirty-six-page history of their experiences so that the children will know about their family's history.
Mr. Petschel continues to give to CARE because he believes in the work and is still so very grateful for the support his family received during the most difficult times of their lives.