Anna Vougioukas, an assessment officer with Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivor Support Program, came into the lives of Zinovi and Sarah Kopine at just the right time.
I have received services from Jewish Care for seven years. My wife Sarah and I met Anna in April 2015, which was an extremely difficult time because Sarah had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. Because of her treatments, Sarah was feeling weak and unfortunately had a fall and broke her hip. There was a lot of pressure on me to care for my wife.
At the time, I was struggling to co-ordinate the services required to match my own needs and my wife’s needs. I felt hopeless, sad and lonely. It seemed like everything was going downhill.
Anna responded to our initial phone call promptly and came to see us on the same day. She took control of our services and organised everything. She put in place a shopping service which reduced stress and allowed us to maintain our nutrition. She also organised taxi and food vouchers, which provided us with much-needed financial support at that time.
Anna visits us almost every month. She not only manages our services but also provides us with emotional support. It feels good to know that there is a person you can call who will listen to your problems and help you find a solution.
One of the most important aspects of our relationship is that we share the same language. This allows us to express ourselves accurately, which is very important in regards to having our problems solved. Being migrants, it is also important to us that Anna shares the same culture, because this makes us feel comfortable with her and we view her as more than just a care co-ordinator – we view her as part of our family.
Our life has become easier. It is not that scary anymore to grow old; we feel safe. We have seen a significant improvement in the consistency of services delivered to us and we know that Anna is just a phone call away if we need any help at all.
Zinovi and Sarah have been together for 58 years, so they have a very close relationship. They came to our program as Holocaust survivors, and one of our team members identified that they were experiencing a difficult time, so I took a closer look at their case.
At 91, Sarah was undergoing chemotherapy. She was very weak and she’d had a fall and broke her hip, so she was immobile for some time. This meant Zinovi had to look after the house, look after Sarah and it was a lot of pressure at his age.
As it was such a difficult time, we were coordinating their care closely because we didn’t want anything to happen to them. They really needed that attention at that time, which gave them a feeling of security. It was reassuring that they had someone to call, and if they were having some difficulties, somebody could address them.
At the time they were asking for more consistency in the services and their carer. Building a relationship with one carer, even if they are not necessarily Russian-speaking, means a lot to them.
Zinovi is calmer now and Sarah’s a lot happier. They have also started going for walks again.
It does mean a lot that we can communicate in Russian because they can express exactly what they want and what they feel. But it’s not only the language; it’s the shared culture.
Zinovi used to be a soldier in the Russian army, so he used to protect the country and is very proud of that. Sarah was a surgeon, and she has over 50 years’ experience in the surgery. She is very smart, compassionate and helps people a lot. At her age, she still does as much as she can. Zinovi is intelligent and a gentleman in the full meaning of the word.
It makes me happy to see, after so many years, a relationship like theirs and I’m privileged to be able to assist people like Zinovi and Sarah when they are in need. They are really inspiring clients. So it works both ways.
This article appears in the current edition of Community Care Review.
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