DR. ANNA ORNSTEIN, 93, BROOKLINE
Anna Ornstein, 93, a Hungarian Jew who survived the Auschwitz death camp and the Parschnitz labor camp, sees the Covid-19 pandemic as potentially altering people’s perspective.
“Maybe this pandemic will give people an opportunity to change their priorities. It’s an opportunity to think through what is the most important thing in life. Is it to make yourself rich or to care for your fellow human beings?” said Ornstein, a psychiatrist, author, and speaker living in Brookline.
“The pandemic permits us to reach out to people. The young must not forget the old,” she said.
“If you live alone, the loneliness creates depression and then it’s difficult to see anything in front of you ‒ your future. People may be waiting to die.”
The vicious coronavirus coursing the globe “does not differentiate between rich and poor ‒ it attacks everybody,” Ornstein said.
Recalling lessons from the Holocaust, Ornstein said those who were selfish “didn’t do well in the camps.” She remembered hearing a mother scream when her daughter tried to steal her bread in the middle of the night. The daughter said, “You will die anyway.” When the Shoah was over, many looked back at their behavior and said, ‘How could I do such a thing?’”
JAKE KULEVICH, 27, MARBLEHEAD
Even by the high standards of his athletic family, Jake Kulevich has been a standout. Schoolboy sports in Marblehead ‒ including playing in the Maccabi USA Games ‒ were indicators of where he was headed.
With a scholarship in hand, Kulevich went on to become captain of the Colgate University men’s hockey team. After graduating in 2017, the 6-foot-4-inch, 216-pound defenseman turned pro, beginning with the Manitoba Moose, a minor league affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets. He was playing with the Bakersfield Condors, the California minor league affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, when the pandemic hit.
On March 11 while flying to Grand Rapids, Mich., for a pair of weekend games, the Condors returned to Bakersfield and spent a week in quarantine before Kulevich, 27, returned home to Marblehead.
Now, rather than the 24/7 regiment of conditioning his body to compete on the pro level, he takes walks or does yoga with his sisters Emily, 25; Carly, 18; and Georgia, 12. But he’s drawing strength from his parents, Tom and Patti, and his grandparents, Judy and David Cohen and former Marblehead High athletic director and football coach Alex Kulevich.
“Thinking about how [the COVID-19 restrictions] will affect my career is almost a waste of energy,” Jake said. “Everyone’s lives and careers are turned upside down. There are bigger problems than my next hockey game.”
GLORIA BARBACOFF, 66, NAHANT
People doing well during the pandemic are those with strong support systems, said clinical social worker Gloria Barbacoff of Nahant.
“If people’s lives haven’t been upended, they can continue with their routines. Kids are doing well. They seem to be more adaptable. I’m hearing parents say, ‘My kids are adapting better than I am.’”
Some tech-savvy homebound people are doing better in these days of Zoom meetings and virtual contact. Also, people who engage in their hobbies, exercise, and practice yoga and meditation are doing well, she said.
People whose home lives already were filled with tension are not doing as well.
The novelty of the situation, the unpredictability, the lack of control can be overwhelming. Just walking to the mailbox or going grocery shopping can produce stress. The order to “don’t touch” is so contrary to how we behave as social animals, mused Barbacoff.
“But once we get through this, people will look back and feel strength in how they handled it. ‘I made it! I’m tough.’ These are people who are not so wedded to the anxiety of the moment,” said Barbacoff. “Be one of those people who are able to hold onto hope for a better future.”
RICHARD FRENKEL, 68, SWAMPSCOTT
No one who knows him would ever call Swampscott’s Richard Frenkel a stay-at-home guy. He’s a hiker, biker, mountain climber, and outdoorsman. On weekends, he gathers fellow travelers for two- to seven-hour walks or bike rides.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only made his companions more willing to quit the confines of their homes, don masks, and trek out for an afternoon excursion.
Frenkel, 68, who runs an IT company, and his wife, Lenora, were regulars at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore until it closed because of the coronavirus. Now they’ve been doing the JCC’s three-times-a-week online exercise classes with Tabatha Keating, finding it fun and comforting to see friends online via Zoom.
Frenkel and a friend recently biked from Roundhouse Road in Marblehead along the railroad path through Salem woods to Highland Avenue, across to the Spring Pond watershed in Peabody, to Lynn Woods and to Route 1, where he had left a car in order to return.
Has the pandemic curtailed Frenkel’s meanderings?
Not in the slightest, he said. “I’ve always avoided crowded places.”