When Sofia broke her femur twenty years ago following her aliyah to Israel, she required rehabilitation assistance and that is how ICEJ’s Homecare became part of her life. Her sweet smile hid a story, until her trust in the Homecare nurse grew and one day she said, “in 1941, I had to flee...”
Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, religious belief including the practice of Judaism was forbidden. Atheism became the new religion of the Communist Regime. By the time of Sofia’s birth in 1919 and her growing up years in Belarus, the religious observance of her Jewish Orthodox grandparents was forgotten. But more darkness was to descend with the invasion of German forces in the Second World War and it was not religious belief, but being ethnically Jewish, that targeted one for extermination.
Sofia’s father though, inadvertently saved the lives of Sofia and her older brother by insisting they study in Moscow and not the closer university of Minsk. Sofia was studying to be a teacher and her brother was in a university studying railway engineering. It was this vital profession that gave priority to those particular students to be evacuated ahead of the potential German advance. Her brother managed to include Sofia and she joined him for a train trip which usually took two days, but this time three weeks, into the relative security of Siberia. She left the train to find work in a large Siberian town which resulted in traveling by horse and cart to a school in a small town many kilometres away. By now it was November – in Siberia – and she had fled without any possessions and only the summer dress she wore. In the village to which she was sent she was made assistant principal as they were impressed that someone from a university in Moscow would work in their school. During those lonely years, not knowing what had happened to her family, she boarded with a simple but kind hearted old lady who did not guess her Jewish heritage. City bred Sofia also learned the ways of farming as with war taking so many men away, teachers and students spent time after school in the fields. The war’s end brought the terrible news to Sofia and her brother who was safe in another Siberian town that their home town had been soon occupied following invasion, and its Jewish inhabitants murdered. At this point in the story, tears come. “I lost my whole family,” she says.
When the doors opened, Sofia, now widowed, her daughter and son in law, left behind the anti-Semitism and limited opportunities for Jews that was part of life in the Communist Soviet Union, and along with thousands of other Jews, came to their Homeland.
This gentle, frail lady, now requires further nursing care, and ICEJ’s Homecare is still there to help.