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Interview with 78 year old resident of Coney Island

Interviewee: 78 year old, Russian-speaking woman, resident of Coney Island. The interview was conducted using simultaneous translation. The audio file was transcribed by the bilingual interpreter.
Interviewer: Shelly Ronen
01/11/2013

Q: Do you live in this neighborhood?

A: Yes in this neighborhood, there were very scary events that took place here. very many people suffered. We live in this neighborhood, how is it called, let me think. oh wire gardens. this area, there are six buildings. my husband and I live on the 10th floor.

From the 29th we had no light or water, luckily I filled up the water tub which lasted a bit for about 3-4 days. No TV no telephone, many times we were offered to leave. Told that we could be relocated.

Q: Who?

A: Police, management, really cared and tried to help.

 Q: But you didn’t want to leave?

 A: No, (interlude of moving around asking about bags) I have to say that after 4 days we finally got water and we were saved. You understand that then we could use the bathroom and everything was fine. The worst of it was that the elevator didn’t work.

Q: How did you get up and down? Did you leave?

A: We left once a week to go to our daughter’s house, and there we showered. But we’re from Russia, we can take anything, well actually from Baku and we’re very good, strong and resilient.

Q: What do you need right now?

A: Right now they have everything, truth be told we really felt taken care of. First of all there were volunteers that came to us and participating students.

Q: Do you know what organization they were from or what schools they attended?

A: I don’t know anything like that, just that there were a lot of young guys that came. They brought us water, asking what medicine we need, then my husband had told one of the volunteers that he couldn’t listen to the radio because he didn’t have batteries for his radio. And an hour later, a volunteer came back up the same ten flights again

To say that we were neglected would be wrong.

Q: What about FEMA?

A: About FEMA, I can tell you they came a few times. As a result of the hurricane we had cracks in the walls. FEMA didn’t pay too much attention to that, they said it’s personal, but it’s Projects here so they (management of building) need to take care of it and FEMA isn’t responsible. And we were registered and my daughter signed us up. In general, let me tell you that when our houses were in management independently everything would be fixed instantly.

What else do you want to know?

Q: What about language issues?

A: We speak Russian, I can speak English functionally in stores when I need to. It’s just hard on the phone speaking so fast.

Q: How do you think your experiences differ?

A: I know that Staten Island suffered, broken houses and torn apart. A lot of people still need help. I know I heard in New York there are a lot of areas that were destroyed. I saw on TV that somebody very rich gave a lot of money.

All in all, I have to say, we’ve been living here for twenty years and are very grateful to America. Some places some programs are becoming more limited, but for example these last few months we received more food stamps. In general, for us, we had bad conditions but because of that, our rent for the month was 1/3 of usual cost. Everything such as this I have to acknowledge, each kindness doesn’t go unnoticed. I really appreciate it all.

(Discussion about what is in the boxes being distributed on site)

 Q: Can we ask a few more questions? A lot of people are talking about climate change and how it’s a contributing factor to the disaster that occurred.

A: You understand, I have to say that there is nobody that could be blamed. It’s a natural disaster, I have lived here for twenty years and I have never seen anything like this. The ocean rose out from the beach, I saw it myself from the tenth floor. The streets were getting flooded, the cars too! My neighbor lost her car, we didn’t think it would be like this. But there is nobody that can be blamed, this was an unimaginable disaster.

Q: What could be done in the future?

A: What can I say, what do we know. I don’t know. We just have to survive. And somehow, you know life is very difficult. We have overcome so much.

Q: Can we ask how old you are?

A: I’m 78 years old.

[Continued talk about how old we are and her granddaughters (drawing similarities & talking about youth being wasted on the young & we need to listen to what we are told by those who have lived it)]

Q: Has this changed your experience living in NY or America? Any additional comments?

A: No, I have told you the whole truth and everything. I can’t say anything bad. There are some people who are never happy and always complain. Still to this day, there are people here helping. Months later, this was in October! This is January and still, look! This is a miracle.

Download transcript here.

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