Meet Pola Dynia

What is the most significant event that you have witnessed in your lifetime?
The second world war. It destroyed so many lives, not just mine. I was a 10 year old girl in primary school in the Ukraine when the war broke out.

Can you tell me about a particularly memorable experience from your youth?
We left for Kiev on echelons. (trains) People were like ants, everywhere, as many as could fit. I was panicked, as was everyone else. I was with my grandmother, my mother (who was paralysed down one side) and my three sisters. What I went through will stay with me for the rest of my life. But I am lucky. I survived. So many did not.

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in your lifetime?
I have lived in the Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Israel and Australia. I speak 5 languages. I have seen a lot of changes.

Can you tell us about a person who has had a big impact on your life?
Definitely my grandmother. She worked miracles for us. She is the reason we survived. She sold her jewellery to get us on the boat out of Kiev. She went to the docks every day to ask the boat captains if they could take us. We avoided the (concentration) camps because of her. She was such a strong woman.

Tell us about a time when you faced a difficult challenge and how you overcame it?
The boat started to sink. My grandmother tied us all together and we went into the water. We were picked up by a Russian ship. We didn’t know where we were going. It was a long way, but we survived.

We travelled by train to the Uzbekistan mountains. I learned Uzbek and taught my grandmother. The locals made us a house out of cow dung, but we had a roof over our heads. They were very kind people and helped us as much as they could. We got a bit of land to grow vegetables and my sister (16) was given a pony and told she would be acting as the doctor in town taking medicine to people. Another sister (13) was the person responsible for the mail and I was sent to work at the hospital. I was about 12.

What is your proudest accomplishment?
I am proud of my father. He was an amazing artist. He painted all the generals - he even painted Stalin! But he was made to paint propaganda, which was very sad because he had a huge talent.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in life?
Study more! (laughs) I am very proud of my grandsons. One lives in NSW and the other in Israel.

Tell us about a tradition or custom from your youth that you still practice today / or practiced for many years?
Not so much a tradition, but I will never forget my nephew singing for us as a child. I will never forget his voice. He made everyone laugh and cry.

What is a place you have travelled to that you found particularly interesting or beautiful? Why?
We came to Australia because my husband found a brother of his who lived in Kingsford in Sydney. We bought a unit in Eastlakes and I found a job in a battery factory, then with Katies Clothing I once went by ship all around Australia. It was the best time of my life. I saw the most beautiful places. This is the best country. We are all very lucky people to be living here.

What is something you have learned in your long life that you would like to share with others?
Life is experience. Even bad events - they are still experience.

SummitCare Randwick is the home I have dreamed of my whole life. I am very happy where I am now.

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