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96-year-old Anne sits by the large window in her living room looking out at the city she’s loved for seventy years. Anne was a quiet and inquisitive girl living in Vienna, where her parents ran a small shop. She was only 14 when Hitler invaded Austria. Her father’s store was destroyed, and all the family’s money seized— “Life changed overnight,” Anne recalls.
Desperate to save their young daughter, Anne’s parents ensured she was on the first Kindertransport train leaving Vienna in December 1938. She was one of six hundred children boarding that day, unsure if they would ever see their families again. Indeed, Anne’s parents were later killed by the Nazis.
She spent the rest of her childhood in England, where she attended a girl’s boarding school. As a young girl, she had no support to help her cope with the trauma she experienced and was teased relentlessly by classmates. Anne is a survivor and fiercely independent. She made her way to New York City on her own in her twenties.
One of the first things Anne noticed about America was the women’s hairstyles – everyone wore their hair in curls. But Anne had always worn her hair cropped short – and she wasn’t about to change that to fit in. With a laugh, she explains that she preferred to go to the local barber shop to get her hair cut. The shocked expressions from the men waiting their turn never ceased to amuse her.
That independent streak has always served Anne well. Determined to pursue higher education, she enrolled in night school at Hunter College where she developed an interest in aging services. She later came to work for JASA (Jewish Association Serving the Elderly) after its founding in 1968. Working with these seniors, Anne realized how truly isolated they often were. She became the organization’s director of volunteer programs, and over time recruited and trained nearly 1,000 New Yorkers to help address these needs. Before she retired, the mayor gave her an award for best volunteer director in the city.
I've been diagnosed with macular degeneration.
And I'm an avid reader.
Unable to maintain her balance, Anne relies on a wheeling walker to get around her small apartment. She' also been diagnosed with macular degeneration. An avid reader, she worries about what her declining vision means for her daily life and the independence she treasures.
Anne’s apartment displays a trove of black and white photos, depicting cherished friends from around the world, symbols of the lives she touched with her warmth and sense of humor. But at her age, Anne is no longer able to travel. Her only company are phone calls and letters from friends around the world. She even stays in touch with their children and grandchildren: “They’re eager to know what their parents and grandparents were like when they were younger.”