Esther Kaidanow was born Esther Danon on October 31, 1935 in Split, Croatia (former Yugoslavia). The youngest of four siblings, Kaidanow was six years old in 1941 when German and Italian armies invaded Yugoslavia, burning synagogues and launching the war in her hometown. When few members of her immediate family, including her older sister, joined the Partisan movement in 1943, Kaidanow traveled with her mother and other sister to a small village to hide with a family they knew. They then relocated to a more remote area and subsequently hid in the mountains with a Yugoslav Partisan group for a time until British troops liberated part of Italy from Nazi occupation in 1944. They sailed by rowboat to Hvar Island, off the coast of Croatia, and were eventually placed in Bari, a displaced persons camp in Italy. Kaidanow reunited with her father and brother in the second displaced persons camp. Under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s rescue policy, Kaidanow and her family were brought to the United States and placed in another displaced persons camp in Oswego, New York. Once the war ended, they moved to Philadelphia and eventually reconnected with Kaidanow’s older sister, who was still in Croatia at the time. Kaidanow met Howard, also a Holocaust survivor, in 1959. The two married in 1961.
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