Photos| After the Korean War: The story of North Korean orphans in Europe

Six decades after they returned to their homeland, traces of thousands of North Korean children orphaned by the Korean War linger for the elderly Europeans whose lives they briefly touched. Some 5,000 orphans were sent to live in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany — all communist allies — as part of Soviet-led projects to reconstruct war-ravaged North Korea. The orphans studied in local schools and made local friends. Then, abruptly, they were called back to North Korea. “We weren’t told — not at all — they just stopped coming to school,” said Halina Dobek, 87, who taught some of the orphans in Poland. “These children were leaving Poland with no enthusiasm.

UPDATED ON JUN 23, 2020 05:55 PM IST 5 Photos
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This photocopy of an undated picture provided by Primary School No. 5 in Otwock shows North Korean and Polish primary school children with their Polish teachers inside their school in Otwock, Poland, where North Korean war orphans lived and went to school in the 1950s. During and after the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea sent thousands of orphans it couldn’t feed to Eastern European communist allies. The children entered schools in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and elsewhere, forming friendships, studying, playing. (AP)

This photocopy of an undated picture provided by Primary School No. 5 in Otwock shows North Korean and Polish primary school children with their Polish teachers inside their school in Otwock, Poland, where North Korean war orphans lived and went to school in the 1950s. During and after the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea sent thousands of orphans it couldn’t feed to Eastern European communist allies. The children entered schools in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and elsewhere, forming friendships, studying, playing. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 23, 2020 05:55 PM IST
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This photocopy of an undated picture provided by Primary School No. 5 in Otwock shows North Korean and Polish primary school children at their school in Otwock, where North Korean war orphans lived and went to school in the 1950s. (AP)

This photocopy of an undated picture provided by Primary School No. 5 in Otwock shows North Korean and Polish primary school children at their school in Otwock, where North Korean war orphans lived and went to school in the 1950s. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 23, 2020 05:55 PM IST
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During and after the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea sent thousands of orphans it couldn’t feed to Eastern European communist allies. (AP)

During and after the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea sent thousands of orphans it couldn’t feed to Eastern European communist allies. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 23, 2020 05:55 PM IST
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The children entered schools in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and elsewhere, forming friendships, studying, playing. (AP)

The children entered schools in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and elsewhere, forming friendships, studying, playing. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 23, 2020 05:55 PM IST
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Former teacher Halina Dobek, 87, looks through the school reports of the North Korean war orphans whom she taught the Polish language in 1956-57, in Otwock, Poland. During and after the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea sent thousands of orphans it couldn’t feed to Eastern European communist allies. The children entered schools in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and elsewhere, forming friendships, studying, playing. Then several years later they were all abruptly ordered to return home. (AP)

Former teacher Halina Dobek, 87, looks through the school reports of the North Korean war orphans whom she taught the Polish language in 1956-57, in Otwock, Poland. During and after the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea sent thousands of orphans it couldn’t feed to Eastern European communist allies. The children entered schools in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and elsewhere, forming friendships, studying, playing. Then several years later they were all abruptly ordered to return home. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 23, 2020 05:55 PM IST
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