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Afghanistan As It Once Was

The Kabul in William Podlich's photographs is an almost unrecognizable place -- a bustling capital of nattily attired men and women, many wearing Western dress; modern cars; and green parks. A place where women -- Afghans and foreigners -- could freely walk the streets. A peaceful place where tourists, unconcerned for their safety, could take buses to the major historic sites in the country or across the border to Pakistan.

In 1967, Podlich, a professor at Arizona State University, began a two-year stint in Afghanistan with UNESCO, teaching at the Higher Teachers College in Kabul. He brought along his wife, Margaret, and Peg and Jan, his two teenaged daughters. Podlich, an amateur photographer, recorded his adventures in hundreds of photographs that his family is now sharing with the world.

Podlich retired from Arizona State in 1981 and died in 2008 at the age of 92. “When I look at my dad’s photos, I remember Afghanistan as a country with thousands of years of history and culture,” Peg Podlich told "The Denver Post," which worked with the family to first publish the photos. “It has been a gut-wrenching experience to watch and hear about the profound suffering which has occurred in Afghanistan during the battles of war for nearly 40 years. Fierce and proud yet fun-loving people have been beaten down by terrible forces."

Clayton Esterson, Peg Podlich's husband, who has assumed the role of archivist for the photographs, told "The Denver Post": "Many Afghans have written comments showing their appreciation for the photographs that show what their country was like before 33 years of war. This makes the effort to digitize and restore these photographs worthwhile." (26 PHOTOS)

(Originally published February 4, 2013)
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An Afghan military band assembles for an unknown event.
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An Afghan military band assembles for an unknown event.

Of her father, Dr. William Podlich (second from left), Peg Podlich said: "He had always said that since he had served in WWII...he wanted to serve in the cause of peace. In 1967, he was hired by UNESCO as an expert on principles of education for a two-year stint in Kabul.... Throughout his adult life, because he was interested in social studies, whenever he traveled around [in Arizona, to Mexico, and other places] he continued to take pictures. In Afghanistan he took half-frame color slides [on Kodachrome] and I believe he used a small Olympus camera."
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Of her father, Dr. William Podlich (second from left), Peg Podlich said: "He had always said that since he had served in WWII...he wanted to serve in the cause of peace. In 1967, he was hired by UNESCO as an expert on principles of education for a two-year stint in Kabul.... Throughout his adult life, because he was interested in social studies, whenever he traveled around [in Arizona, to Mexico, and other places] he continued to take pictures. In Afghanistan he took half-frame color slides [on Kodachrome] and I believe he used a small Olympus camera."

"I grew up in Tempe, Arizona, and when my dad offered my younger sister, Jan, and me the chance to go with him and our mother to Afghanistan, I was excited about the opportunity," says Peg Podlich (right). "I would spend my senior year in high school in some exotic country, not in ordinary Tempe.... Of course, there were loads of cultural differences between Arizona and Afghanistan, but I had very interesting and entertaining experiences. People always seemed friendly and helpful. I never got into any real difficulties or scrapes, even though I was a fairly clueless teenager! Times were more gentle back then."
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"I grew up in Tempe, Arizona, and when my dad offered my younger sister, Jan, and me the chance to go with him and our mother to Afghanistan, I was excited about the opportunity," says Peg Podlich (right). "I would spend my senior year in high school in some exotic country, not in ordinary Tempe.... Of course, there were loads of cultural differences between Arizona and Afghanistan, but I had very interesting and entertaining experiences. People always seemed friendly and helpful. I never got into any real difficulties or scrapes, even though I was a fairly clueless teenager! Times were more gentle back then."

Peg Podlich (in sunglasses) during a family trip by bus from Kabul to Peshawar, Pakistan.
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Peg Podlich (in sunglasses) during a family trip by bus from Kabul to Peshawar, Pakistan.

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