She is arguably the oldest refugee escaping the war in Ukraine to arrive in Poland.
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Zofia Curkan was to come to Poland a long time ago, as her family members, a daughter, a son-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren live here. Because of her advanced age, her daughter Luiza wanted her mother to come and live with her. Because of that, last year the 104-year-old applied for a passport. It was then that the Ukrainian media first noticed her, wondering why a woman her age needed a passport in the first place. The family also applied for Polish citizenship for Zofia, whose parents were Polish.
A 104-year-old flees the war
For the past 10 years, the elderly woman has never left her apartment, let alone traveled. She has problems walking because of her frail hips. She does not move about on her own and since her apartment is on the third floor, shopping for groceries was out of the question.
When the war broke out, the family decided to evacuate Zofia immediately. In the morning of March 5, just after curfew, Zofia set out on her journey to Poland. The trip was not free from complications. Her younger daughter and grandson accompanied her on the journey. The first stage was a car ride to a bus that took her from Odessa to Moldova.
From Odessa to Warsaw
With the help of the Odessa-based organization Polish Note and the Jewish Hesed, Zofia was whizzed out of town and received medical care, which proved necessary as those who helped carry her dislocated her shoulder! This meant staying in hospital for three long days.
Finally, Zofia made it! She arrived in Warsaw by plane and went straight from the airport to be reunited with her loving daughter. Luiza tells Aleteia the story of her mom, as her mother does not remember much from the trip.
She does remember, though, her youth and the Polish churches she prayed in. And she still knows by heart that single phrase in Polish: “Blessed be Lord Jesus Christ!”
The sign of victory
A midwife by profession, Zofia has often been a witness to the miracle of birth. Once, when she was helping to deliver twins, the mother asked her to kill one of them. Being deeply religious, she firmly refused.
She still remembers the previous war: houses ablaze, dead bodies and the liberation of Odessa in 1944. Does she understand what is happening now in Ukraine? It’s hard to say if she is aware of it. But when she poses for photographs, she makes the sign of victory with her fingers.