P Anna Johnson

Nuclear Refugees, Americans Who Fled to Australia in Fear of the Bomb

Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday, July 21, 1984

by Arlene Levinson

AFTER THE nuclear age dawned in 1945, then darkened in the cold war gloom, Australia offered anxious Americans an escape. In the remote, English- speaking country they could forget about fallout shelters. They could forget the screaming air raid sirens drilling Americans for war. They could forget The Bomb.


Hundreds fled to Australia in the early 1960s. They called themselves “nuclear refugees.” Over the intervening 20 years many of the original nuclear refugees went back to America. Fear of nuclear war receded. Americans forgot about it….

Anna Rodieck arrived in Australia on Boxing Day in 1961. She was 23 and seeking relief from the anxiety of Cold War America.

A native of Niagara Falls, New York, she began life in Australia as a dance teacher and left as an accomplished potter. Although she enjoyed Australia, an incompleteness gnawed at her and after 17 years here she returned to America in 1977 feeling the need to become active in the peace movement there.

Under John Kennedy it was fallout shelters and civil defense. Under Ronald Reagan Americans are offered the comforting notion of “host” areas, where cities can deliver their teeming hordes at the first twitch of the nuclear trigger, said Mrs. Rodieck, noting: “Nothing has been done to provide for them.”

Now a publisher, she owns Open Hand Publishing Inc. In Washington, DC, and works for the civil rights and peace movements. Mrs. Rodieck is also writing a book about her experience as an American expatriate. From her research, she concludes the number of nuclear refugees to be in the hundreds.

Compared to the Bomb hysteria of 20 years ago, she said, “Reagan is taking it into the outer atmosphere. Reagan is talking about putting satellites in outer space from which war can be waged.”

The sense of panic ”is more universal now”, she said. “Children don’t know if they’re going to have a chance to grow up. I don’t think children were thinking that in 1960.”

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