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Holocaust survivor pens NY Times op-ed on how COVID is ‘stealing’ her last years

‘I lost my childhood, I never had my teenage years,’ writes 87-year-old Toby Levy, ‘and now, in my old age, this is shortening my life by a year’

Screen capture from video of Holocaust survivor and educator Toby Levy. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of Holocaust survivor and educator Toby Levy. (YouTube)

JTA — When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Toby Levy thought: “I’m a miracle. I will make it. I have to make it.”

That’s because Levy, as she explained in a New York Times op-ed published Sunday, is an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor from what was then Poland and is now Ukraine. She survived by hiding in a cellar and then later a 4-by-5-foot spot in a barn during the war.

As she wrote, “During the war, we didn’t know if we would make a day. I didn’t have any freedom. I couldn’t speak loudly, I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t cry.”

Levy said that now, “I can feel freedom. I stay by the window and look out. The first thing I do in the morning is look out and see the world. I am alive. I have food, I go out, I go for walks, I do some shopping. And I remember: No one wants to kill me. So, still, I read. I cook a little bit. I shop a little bit. I learned the computer. I do puzzles.

Yet the coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll, scraping away time from what remains of her life.

“I still sometimes feel that I am missing out,” she wrote. “A full year is gone. I lost my childhood, I never had my teenage years. And now, in my old age, this is shortening my life by a year. I don’t have that many years left.”

“The way we have lived this year means I have lost many opportunities to lecture, to tell more people my story, to let them see me and know the Holocaust happened to a real person, who stands in front of them today. It’s important.”

Levy, a retired accountant, is a volunteer educator for the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

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