Photo by Gina Martinez
Senator Toby Stavisky addresses holocaust survivors
By Gina Martinez

Some 50 Holocaust survivors were able to tell their stories and dance at last week’s Selfhelp Coffee House program.

Selfhelp community services hosted the event Oct. 27 for survivors at the Martin Lande House, on 137-47 45th Ave., in Flushing. The Coffee House program is meant to help reduce social isolation and depression among the people who lived through Adolf Hitler’s persecution of the Jews during World War II. Survivors danced and sang to Yiddish music and were able to speak to their elected officials like Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) about their needs.

“A lot of these client have calendars filled with doctors’ appointments and Coffee House gives them something to look forward to,” said Sandy Myers, director of Government and External Relations at Selfhelp Community Services, said. “We play music reminiscent of their youth so the seniors get to celebrate, enjoy and connect. A lot of survivors have outlived their spouses and family members so here they make lifelong friends. Even though the number of Holocaust survivors is decreasing, their needs are now more intense. The remaining survivors are getting older, so it takes more time to address the survivors’ needs.”

Rozic, whose family escaped the Holocaust when they moved to Argentina, thanked the survivors for continuing to share their stories.

“I am a daughter of Flushing and Queens, so today’s event is really important to me on a personal level,” she said,“but also for the next generation in our community because we love hearing stories and it’s important to hear the stories from one generation to the next”

Koo said he felt a connection to the Holocaust survivors because he, too, had to flee communist China after a civil war forced his family to come to the United States.

“I understand how hard it is to be a refugee, to suffer under war,” he said. “Thank you Selfhelp for taking care of Holocaust survivors and other immigrants, too. It’s a good place for senior citizens. You guys have opportunities to talk — being social is critical at your age to have companionship.”

Sandy Myers, Director of Government and External Relations at Selfhelp, says Selfhelp holds events for holocaust survivors to give them and opportunity to socialize.

Margarita Kruchkova, 84, was among the survivors to share her story. She said she lived in an orphanage for years during World War II when her grandmother lost her. While at the orphanage Kruchkova said she made great friends with the German pilots who would fly over the orphanage and occasionally visit. In May 1945 her mother found her and she went on to attend a Moscow university where she met her husband and had a son. She decided to come to America 24 years ago and said she has been happy ever since.

Issac Grugel, 85, said talking about the Holocaust is necessary.

“It’s important not to forget that tragedy.” he said. “There are not many of us left and it’s needed to keep this memory for another generation everything that we went through during the war. And God willing, hopefully it will never repeat itself.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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