There were squirrels living in Anna’s roof. Even without her hearing aid, which she’d rather not wear, she could hear them scrambling. Her air conditioning was broken. Her faucets leaked. Her screen door was bent so badly it would no longer close. But what could she do? She was an old woman living alone. “I didn’t think there would come a time I would be by myself,” says Anna in her thick Romanian accent. “It is seventeen years and six months since my husband passed. I didn’t think I would survive it,” she adds. “But time is healing.”
Anna has survived so much more. At age 20, while growing up in Romania, she found that her town suddenly stood in the path of Nazi and Romanian troops poised to invade the Soviet Union. Jews, branded a security threat, were rounded up and slaughtered, or packed onto trains for parts unknown. She and seven family members lived in a crowded ghetto for three years until their 1944 liberation, bone-thin and covered in lice. She lost 92 family members in the Holocaust, including her father.
Anna is one of hundreds of Holocaust survivors living in our area. Just like with other older adults in our communities, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia works to connect them with resources and services like socialization opportunities, food, transportation and minor home repairs. But a recent assessment revealed that some survivors’ homes needed more than a handyman.
In response, the Jewish Federation Real Estate (JFRE) affinity stepped up with a $25,000 initiative to repair the homes of 15 survivors living in Northeast Philadelphia. Along with members of Green Valley, who contributed to the renovations as part of their annual fundraising project, JFRE was able to provide these homes with some extra TLC: electrical and plumbing work, stairlift and safety railing installations, fixes for collapsing retaining walls and, as in Anna’s case, a brand new roof.
Seated in the home where she’s lived since 1960 — with its plastic-covered sofa, pink carpeting, and framed family photos everywhere — Anna is a proud woman with a nimble mind and a youthful attitude. (She prefers not to make her age public because, she says, “I feel young.”) Having survived so much in her lifetime, being able to live comfortably in her own home is a source of great strength and solace. Anna plans to continue living here until she’s at least 103, the age her mother passed away.
Providing care and comfort for Holocaust survivors is of the highest priority for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. To help us continue this vital work, click here to donate.