This story is coming a week or so late, and I do want to post about yesterday’s half marathon, but I just finished reading this book and I want to get this story posted while it’s still fresh in my mind.
After my last infusion a couple weeks ago I sat on the bench in front of the infusion center reading my latest library find, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. As I’m reading, the woman next to me asks me for the time. She too, is waiting for a ride home from our local paratransit service. I notice she has a slight accent and I ask her where she’s from. She’s from Latvia, she tells me, and asks me if I know it. I regrettable do not, as geography was never my strong subject. She proceeds to tell me all the surrounding areas, and I ask her more about her story, what brought her here to America. This opened up a big can of worms.
The woman was happy to share, not at all shy, about her experience. She lived through World War II. Her family was driven from their home in Latvia because her father owned land and the Germans wanted it. My dad tells me this was common during the war. This woman sitting next to me told me how she worked in slave camps during her teen years, until her family was able to escape to a refugee camp in Sweden. She came to America in 1950 and she’s been here ever since.
As we were talking, the paratransit van arrived and it turned out we were on the same van because we lived near each other. Our conversation continued until we arrived at her home.
It was incredible to talk with her, and I just wished we had longer together. But even in that short time we were given I learned that she is a survivor, though she was quick to deny it. She has PTSD from her experience. And because she subsisted much of that time on soy beans, she still can’t eat anything with soy. She smiles as she tells me that even soy sauce is unbearable. Those odors bring back horrific memories that she can’t bear, even all these years later. I tell her she is a survivor because she kept going when many others did not. She keeps going even now, as she suffers the residual effects of the trauma she lived through.
Her name is Mitsy. She has a precious cat who loves to greet her at the door and she looks fabulous in her big floppy red hat. Mitsy is a survivor. Living, breathing history. I thank God that I had the privilege of that brief ride home with her. It was an encounter that left an indelible mark on my heart.