Emilia – 85 years old (January 1st 1934)

I don’t know exactly when I was born, but I know it was during the Great Famine. To save my life, my parents gave us kids their food. They starved to death shortly after I was born.

Later, the state assigned me the birthdate of January 1, 1934. I had two older sisters and a brother. They were just kids, too, and they raised me.

When I was 14, another terrible famine was upon us. A neighbor we trusted offered me a job, but kidnapped me and sold me as basically a slave on the other side of the country. They forged documents, saying I was 18, and there I was held captive, barely surviving.

A man married me, but because he was drinking, I had to leave him.

My sisters were searching everywhere for me, and after years, they found me. We all found work in a carpet factory, here in this village. I was happy, finally, and married again.

We had two children, a girl and a boy. When she was only six years old, my daughter drowned in the lake. And when my son was nineteen, he moved to Riga, Latvia for work, and drowned in the sea.

What sorrows this brought us. About 40 years ago now, my husband died suddenly. I’ve never considered remarrying. Since then, I’ve lived by myself, and feel alone and forgotten every day.

My pension is $65/month. That’s all I get to buy food, firewood, medicine, and pay taxes and electricity. Obviously, it’s never enough, and there are many nights I think I’ll freeze or starve to death. I have high blood pressure, my legs constantly hurt, and I cannot walk very well.