I relaxed and chatted with the young mom for a bit then it was time for her to go. In came this elderly lady, short but sturdy in stature, white haired with a cozy winter hat on, she peered at me with a twinkle in her eye. We made an instant connection, then she rested her shopping cart by the bench beside me. She made her claim, she was going to sit with me for coffee.
In a few moments she returned and started to climb up the bar stool. By instinct I placed my foot on the bottom bar of the bar stool almost expecting her to fall. I was in what I call "emergency mode"
In a calm maternal voice I heard " I can climb up, that's ok I was young once you know?" I smiled. "I used to ride horses", she said. She's a cool old lady I said to myself!
I smiled at her and she began to tell me a little about herself, just small talk. I told her I work with the elderly, she did a "hmmm" and told me she was a nurse when she was younger. She asked me if I was married. I said no, I told her men seem to be taking time these days they are not in a rush. I told her I had 4 children but never married. She politely said "Oh!" I was used to that response. She went on to say that "people do whatever they want these days" I regretfully agreed.
This is when her story began.... She told me her family was killed in the war by the Nazis! Doing my math in my head I realized I was in rare company. I may never get a chance to meet someone like this again. She told me that her brother had taught her photography and because of that the Nazis didn't kill her. They killed almost everyone she knew that day. She made photographs for the them. "Photography saved my life!" she told me. This was incredible! The more she spoke the more I felt a miracle happening.
She told me that there was a resistance and she fought along side with the men and lived in the forest for 3 years!!! I told her it must have been difficult as a women. She told me she wasn't a woman then, meaning she had to think and act like a man. While in Russia during the war they were in desperate need of medical help, she was trained to be a nurse and took care of the wounded soldiers. She told me "When the Russians tell you, you will work as a nurse or we will make you work as a nurse, what do you do?" I told her you didn't really have a choice did you? She laughed.
The pictures back then were developed in black and white and being an artist she painted them or edited them to make them in colour! Incredible, incredible I thought to myself. This woman is remarkable!
She told me that I can go to the library and read her book, A Partisan's Memoir (writing another passion of mine) Confirmation after confirmation that this was meant to happen and that I needed to hear her story, I thought she would disappear in a puff of smoke. I must have been dreaming!
I told her we have so much in common I am an artist, photographer and a caregiver and I decided a few days ago I am going to live my dream and do something I love for a living. She said do it!
I asked her for her name so I could find the book and she wrote it down on a piece of note paper I was carrying. I asked her if I could take her picture and she reached into her purse and showed me her pictures!!! I wasn't expecting that. She showed me a picture of her on a horse, long time ago and someone wearing many war medals! She told me that she also received war medals. She said that she is going to speak at a university in the near future. I whipped out my trusty Blackberry and she smiled when she realized I meant that I wanted to take our picture. I asked again and she said "sure go ahead!" Filled with excitement and a new zest for life I said goodbye and bounced over to the grocery store to do my shopping.
When I got home I did a little research she is indeed legit! Everything she said was true and again I was amazed. Her name is Fanny "Fay Schulman and she is 92 years old!
I am forever grateful for such a beautiful moment in my life and if I never meet another history maker again, I am indeed satisfied...So I guess its time for me to make a little history of my own. Thanks Fanny!!!
Here are some links about Faye Schulman