Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Client profile: Wasyl Fedorowicz

Kindness and Resilience amidst Adversity:
The Story of Wasyl Fedorowicz
Wasyl rides the Hyde Shuttles three times per week and is a 
regular client of Volunteer Transportation.

Wasyl  Fedorowicz is a survivor.  Like many Ukrainians, his life was molded by dark events of Eastern Europe’s long history of conflict.  There are memories so upsetting he buried them deep into his subconscious and experiences so traumatizing they caused him years of PTSD-induced nightmares.   His story, like that of his homeland, contains underlying currents of cruelty, suffering and injustice.  But it is also marked by great kindness.  Interwoven through Wasyl’s tales of fear, powerlessness and hardship is the strong theme of compassion.

War shaped much of Wasyl’s journey.  He was born in 1923 in a small Ukrainian village under Polish control.  At a young age, he was recruited to serve as a courier to an underground organization against the Soviet Union-- delivering messages in the cold and darkness of stormy nights.  World War II broke out when he was 16.  The Germans soon invaded his country and sent him to a forced labor camp in Germany at age 19.  He never saw his parents alive again.   He spent the next 7 years of his life, even after the end of WWII in 1945, in German camps.  He moved to the United States as a displaced person in 1949 and wasn’t able to visit his village again until after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Wasyl vividly recalls times when brave, kind people saved his life.  Once, his boss’ daughter intervened as angry members of Hitler’s loyal SS Corps were ready to shoot him.  One grabbed Wasyl’s hat and pulled it down so forcefully that it covered his face.  With gentle grace, the young German woman reminded the belligerent militants that Wasyl and his friends were hard workers contributing to the war effort. They left him alone.

Another time, an English officer interviewed Wasyl to assign him his respective ethnic camp.  Wasyl proudly announced that he was Ukrainian.  The officer would not have it.  He asserted, “You are NOT Ukrainian; you are Polish!”  It wasn’t until later that Wasyl realized the official’s intent: While the Ukrainian camp would have placed him in unendurable conditions, placement in a Polish camp gave him opportunity.  He remembers saying a prayer of thanksgiving for the caring officer.

Wasyl’s stories of more recent years have a very different tone, but they continue to include examples of selfless acts in the midst of challenging circumstances.  He provided many years of tender care for his wife, Helen, as she adjusted to life after a knee replacement, a broken hip and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.   But it soon became too much for him to manage.  They eventually relocated to Seattle to be near family, and Helen moved to a skilled nursing facility.

Wasyl now relies on Senior Services’ Transportation Program to visit his wife as frequently as he can.  Volunteer Transportation drivers pick him up, take him to the nursing home, and allow him to spend quality time with Helen.  He is very grateful for the service.  He recently reported with great excitement that he had witnessed Helen taking small, precarious steps with the assistance of a walker and the help of the facility’s medical staff.  It meant a lot for him to witness her progress.  His wife isn’t the same person that she used to be, but he is still there for her—unfaltering in his love and devotion.

He also uses the Hyde Shuttles to get to the Central Area Senior Center three times per week.  The socialization and community found at the Senior Center are important for Wasyl’s overall wellbeing.

The volunteer drivers who take Wasyl to his meaningful visits to his wife, the Hyde Shuttle drivers who provide him with transportation to invigorating activities and his friends at the Senior Center may not ever learn of the difficult past he has overcome.   Yet, they offer him support and companionship without expecting anything in return.  Wasyl’s life is full of many contrasting stories, juxtaposing dehumanizing instances of oppression with poignant moments of humanity.


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“Behind the Wheel” offers stories, reflections, news and updates about Sound Generations’ (formerly Senior Services') Transportation Program. Throughout King County, our inspiring volunteers provide needed mobility to local seniors, supporting them in their efforts to remain independent, healthy, and happy. Please drop by to read more about the unique experiences of our volunteers, clients and staff!
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