Sunday, March 2, 2014

I live like a flower

Sometimes, when I’m looking for inspiration, I look through notes from meeting Hesed clients – elderly Jewish survivors and community members who rely on our donors and federations for their food, medicine and homecare. Without the support of our donors and our Jewish federations, these elderly Jews wouldn't be alive.

And this weekend I came across the story of Ida, in Vilnius, Lithuania, whom I met last year. Our car got lost on our way to her in a labyrinth of Khruschevkyas, badly-numbered and randomly-ordered massive Soviet-era buildings. It was difficult to drive through because the spaces between the buildings weren't designed with the idea that people would have private cars parked nearby.

Ida lives on the fourth floor. She hasn't left the apartment since January 2007. She was in her kitchen carrying coffee grinds and she slipped. She broke her hip and since then she stays inside. Once a year a family friend takes her to the cemetery to see her son’s grave. Her Husband died in 2007, a few weeks after her son. Her sister in 1984, her mother in 1986. Her dog died in 2008.

But she is still living. We bring her food, winter relief, a social case worker, and the knowledge that she’s not alone.

Ida was born in 1924 in Gomel, Belorussia so she’s now 90 years old. She’s full of life, with a beaming smile and more energy than her visitors.

 “Oy Joint” she says with a beautiful smile. “I remember the Joint. In 1944 in the war my mother and sister and me came to Gomel and the Joint gave us help. They gave us cans of fish and meat and clothes. I want to share a story. I got a skirt from the Joint. It was black and beautiful with short sleeves and this skirt was very short (she giggles). It was called ‘the man doesn't have time.’ It was slit down the side.” (Yes, I was blushing. No, she wasn't).

“Later when I came to Vilnius I got four JDC packages – clothing, winter clothes. Thank you."

“Why do I live so long? Because God loves me. I live like a flower. I open up slowly and I have a beautiful fragrance that surrounds me. And now the Jewish community is my family, and they take care of me.”

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