Russian WWII vet asks Obama for shelter

Anton Karavanets, an 83-year-old war veteran from St. Petersburg, has addressed the US president asking for help
When Soviet soldiers released US POWs in China in 1945, then 18-year-old Anton was asked if he would like to move to America as a thank-you for the deed. It took the WWII veteran 66 years and a defeat by Russian red-tape to take up the offer.

­Anton Karavanets, an 83-year-old war veteran from St. Petersburg, has addressed the US president asking for help. In his letter, the aged man explained he was a draftee fighting the Japanese soldiers in China. “The division I was serving in was delivering US military from captivity [in China]. Grateful for our heroic deeds, the American authorities asked us if we would like to move to the USA.” The Soviet soldiers flatly refused, fearing their decision might have a negative impact on their relatives in the Soviet Union, website says.

After the war, Anton spent a few years in Siberia. Ten years ago, after being diagnosed with cancer, the war veteran moved to St. Petersburg. In 2006, his wife died and later his son had to sell the apartment the three of them had been living in, because the two men lost all their money due to the financial crisis. The veteran hoped to get the free apartment which all veterans are entitled to, but this process got bogged down in red tape.

“At the moment I have to rent an apartment. I feel unwanted in the motherland I fought for,” writes the veteran. “Every year when we celebrate Victory Day, I learn that fewer and fewer veterans live to see the celebrations. I would like to know how war veterans live in the US and whether they have the same problems we are having here.”

The letter had a postscript as well: Anton expressed his regret that it took him so long to make the right decision. “Can I still use the opportunity I was offered more than half a century ago? My country does not want me. Maybe the USA could extend sympathy to me?”

The letter was registered at the US Consulate at the end of April, where it was guaranteed that the document would be sent directly to the leader of the United States. Anton has to spend a few weeks in hospital while waiting for a reply. His health does not seem to have improved.

The news took little time to come to light. After it appeared in several Russian newspapers and the public got concerned, St. Petersburg authorities stated they were ready to provide the war veteran with a public welfare home.

The authorities are also ready to provide Anton an opportunity to meet his fellow soldiers from China and USA.

“I have just talked with the son and will try to visit the veteran himself tomorrow,” Aleksandr Rzhanenkov, the head of St. Petersburg’s Social Policy Committee, told RIA Novosti news agency. “We will discuss all the problems. For now, I can say that we will definitely provide him with all necessary medical treatment and a place in a public welfare home. We won’t leave a war hero without a roof over his head.”

But according to RIA Novosti news agency, Anton refused the offer.

“If they offer me a move into a retirement home, I will refuse the offer,” the veteran told RIA Novosti news agency. “I wish to live like a human being late in my life, in a separate flat.”

The veteran’s son is ready to let his father go to the USA, as he believes they can treat an elderly person better.

And Anton is hoping the US authorities will turn out to be more attentive to the needs of a WWII veteran.