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Moving memories over a cup of tea

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Posted on: 
29 Oct 2021
 Moving memories over a cup of tea

It is a weekly routine which began seven years ago. ICEJ Homecare nurse Corrie van Maanen visits 96-year-old Zachar, a widower after 60 years of marriage. She brings a small contribution of groceries to his meagre pantry, for which he is grateful. But the visit is more important. It means a cup of tea and a listening ear. And not just any cup, but one with blue dots. On her very first visit arranged by an Israeli social worker, he said, “This is ‘your’ cup because I hope you will come many more times.” It is Corrie’s cup, and although he can no longer see, Zachar always asks if she has it. On this visit, Corrie has brought a postcard from a Homecare supporter touched by the stories of elderly Jewish immigrants bound to their homes by health issues or lockdowns.

Corrie translates the words into Russian: “We are thinking of you and praying for you; may you find joy and strength in this difficult time.” He takes the card and traces the outline of glued dots that form two birds. “Swallows!” Zachar exclaims. “Those are beautiful birds, they come when it gets warmer. In Russia it is even used as expression of love: 'You are my beautiful swallow.' Too bad I can't see them.” But his fingers can, as they again trace over the card. Then he suddenly begins a story.

“When I was little, five or six years old, there was an old man in the village where I lived”, Zachar recalls. “He always sat on the bench in front of his house. He was blind from birth. His head rested on his arm as in the artwork of Auguste Rodin.” Zachar demonstrates the pose, his hand propping up his head. “He always told us stories, which he had heard from others. We enjoyed listening to his stories together with boys from the neighborhood.” There is silence for a moment, as Zachar searches his memories. Then he continues: “In 1941 he was the first to be beaten to death before our eyes. He was a Jew.”

Zachar saw a lot of death after that. He fled a mass shooting and later escaped from a concentration camp where only 1,200 out of 11,000 Jews survived amid the horrific, crowded conditions. But the story he had kept in his heart came out and was given wings to fly. Someone was listening and someone cared. His heart was a little lighter. Zachar returns to his card and tenderly rests his hand on it. “I would like to thank them myself, but will you do it on my behalf?” he asks. “The card gives me joy.”

Your support for ICEJ Homecare brings joy and comfort to many like Zachar. Thank you for partnering with us. 



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