By Anna Gustafson
One month after the Zeltser family escaped the fire that destroyed their Rego Park apartment in March, Diana Zeltser, her husband and two children are confident they will someday return home.
For now, though, their home looks nothing like the apartment they once knew — a beautiful place they owned on the 17th floor of a Rego Park apartment complex that overlooked Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Now, their apartment is empty — all their possessions ruined by the fire or smoke, windows and doors boarded up and walls blackened.
“I’m looking forward to having a house again,” said Daniella Zeltser, a 19âˆ’yearâˆ’old student at LaGuardia Community College. “The good side of all this bad is that everything in the house will be new and clean.”
For the Zeltser family to be able to move back to Rego Park, they must first get enough money to fix their uninsured apartment. The coâˆ’op in which the Zeltsers lived did not require inhabitants to purchase insurance.
Money had been tight for the Zeltsers even before the fire. Diana Zeltser works for the Social Security office in Brooklyn, but her husband, a former salesman, has been out of work for the past year and a half.
The Zeltser family includes Daniella; her mother, Diana; her brother, Allen, 10; her father, Aleksandr Lubenets; and Pinky, their Yorkshire Terrier.
Rego Park resident Ed Gochman, Diana Zeltser’s friend and former colleague, is spearheading efforts to solicit donations for the family. He has made a Web site at which people can donate using PayPal, created a Facebook account that now has close to 200 friends and made a YouTube video that shows pictures of the family and the charred apartment.
Thanks to Gochman’s efforts, word is quickly spreading about the Zeltser’s situation and even complete strangers have donated money to the family that is now living in the Forest Hills apartment of Diana Zeltser’s mother.
“There was a donation from a Rutgers student in New Jersey who heard about it on Facebook,” said Gochman, who worked with Zeltser at the Brooklyn Social Security office.
Rabbi Eliahou Blokh of Chabad of Rego Park has set up a fund for the family so individuals can make charitable, taxâˆ’deductible donations.
Though the family still needs a lot more to be able to move back home, Diana Zeltser said she has been deeply touched by the outpouring of support. “I’m blessed to have so many good people around me, like Ed,” she said. “He’s keeping us alive, he’s keeping our spirits up.”
The fire began a little after 4 a.m. March 26, and it remains under investigation. The FDNY has not yet released the cause of the fire. About 40 firefighters fought the blaze for about an hour before successfully putting out the flames.
Little by little, the family is putting their lives back together — which is not always easy. Allen Zeltser, a 10âˆ’yearâˆ’old student at PS 174, can still jump at the slightest sound or smell that reminds him of the event.
“But we know we’re lucky that none of us were hurt,” Diana Zeltser said. “That’s what matters.”
For more information on how to support the Zeltser family, visit http:â„â„help4dianazeltser.weebly.com.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by eâˆ’mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 174.