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This is Elisa

I was out around 4:00 PM looking for someone with whom I could talk and photograph. Sometimes I would walk around the Upper West Side for several hours and not find anyone.  This day was different.  I was resting on a bench at the bus stop at 66th Street and West End Avenue.  A woman with a walker seemed to need a similar rest.  She sat down next to me and we began chatting.

Elisa lived in Dresden, Germany during World War II with her parents and older sister.  They were a religious Catholic family.  Before the war, her parents owned a bakery shop which was bombed along with their home.  During the war, they were hungry, cold, and frightened.  I asked if she knew at the time what was going on regarding the Holocaust.  She said they knew much of what was happening, but did not believe there was anything they could do.  Life during the war was cheap, and she and her family feared for their own safety.



Elisa is 90 years old.  Her sister, who is a year and a half older, came to the United States in 1949 and Elisa in 1951.  She had trained as a dressmaker.  She met and married her husband, also from Germany, in the United States.  Elisa has lived in Texas, California, and New York because her husband was a manager for a hotel chain.  He died three years ago.  She has an adult son that lives in Las Vegas, whom she rarely sees, and "he almost never calls."  Her older sister lives in the building next to her and they see each other several times a week.

Elisa gets out every day the weather permits.  She loves living in New York City because it is always busy.  It has been difficult living alone during the pandemic.  She misses going to the movies and theater.  She helped fight off the boredom and loneliness by going to Riverside Park.  She loves that park and loves walking along the pedestrian path.  There are many benches so she can take a break and find people like me who like to talk to strangers.  I asked what she dislikes about the city and she said it is too dirty.  Although she loves dogs and has had a few in her lifetime, she does not enjoy seeing what gets left behind when dog owners don't pick up after their pets.

Elisa is a spry 90-year-old who has lived through much death and destruction.  She survived the war, famine, loss, and now the pandemic.  She remains optimistic about the future and will continue to get out every day so she can meet and talk with the people of New York, her treasured home.

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