Confined to a hospital bed and tired of the bland food, Anna Somogyi wishes she could attend Friday's commemorations of the United Nations' Holocaust Memorial Day. Hopeful of returning home in a couple of weeks, Somogyi, 84, is one of dozens of Holocaust survivors receiving care at Budapest's Jewish Charity Hospital, the only such facility in Central-Eastern Europe.
Maintained by Hungary's Jewish community from state funds as well as donations from international Jewish organizations, the Charity Hospital, where non-Jews make up around 25 percent of the patients, introduced a hospice program five years ago to assist the terminally ill.
Over 100 patients a year receive care within the program, which tends to 10 patients at a time and was founded with help from the New York-based American Jewish Distribution Committee.
The mobile hospice unit, which treats terminally ill patients around the hospital instead of gathering them in a specific area, includes doctors, nurses, a psychologist, a physiotherapist, social workers and volunteers.
They provide not only medical care but help patients and their families cope, often by simply listening to their stories or reading them magazines. "Our 10 beds are always occupied," said Veronika Marvany, a doctor with the hospice unit. "Unfortunately, there is great demand ... and there are only 140 hospice beds in Hungary."
Last year, the United Nations designated Jan. 27 Holocaust Memorial Day, commemorating the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops. Numerous events will be held around Hungary on Friday to mark the occasion.
Somogyi, who is being treated for a chronic illness, waited until her daughter was well into her teens before telling her about the Holocaust and how she had survived Auschwitz but lost most of her family. Some 550,000 Hungarian Jews and 50,000 Gypsies were killed in the Holocaust.
Somogyi is pleased her grandchildren have been aware of the Holocaust and her personal story from an early age. "During communism, everything was swept under the rug ... and we didn't tell our daughter because we didn't want to make her bitter," said Somogyi, who was a translator at a chocolate factory after World War II. "I regret not having told her sooner."
Zoltan Veszi, 86, who spent the final weeks of the Holocaust in Hungary in the Budapest ghetto, liberated by Soviet troops in January 1945, said he was grateful for the care he was receiving. He is receiving treatment for a variety of ailments, reports the AP. I.L.