“Be thankful for every day”
Posted on May 15, 2021 by Admin
Atria is home to the world’s wisest people, and we’re always eager to hear the stories of those in the Atria family. One such story that continues to encourage us comes from Paul, a resident at Atria Westminster in Colorado who survived warfare, displacement and other hardships – and is now an inspiration to everyone around him.
From Yugoslavia to Austria
Paul was born in 1929 in Yugoslavia. He had one younger sister and two older brothers, and he described his younger self as a soccer player, a hard worker and a devoted youth leader in his church. When Paul was 12 years old, Germany invaded Yugoslavia. In less than two weeks, Germany had defeated the Yugoslavian army, and the country was under Nazi control.
Not long thereafter, Paul and his family were taken to a concentration camp. He endured horrors for two years until his family escaped and made their way to Hungary. Once again, they were captured and put in a prison in Budapest, but the Hungarian government gave them a two-week pass to leave the country, and they made their way to Austria – traveling in train boxcars until they arrived at a refugee camp in Vienna.
From Austria to Chicago
Paul and his family spent several months in the refugee camp, with the exception of his brother Jacob, who had been taken to a separate camp. Jacob was released before the rest of Paul’s family, and he started to make a life for himself in Austria. After Paul and his family left the camp, they worked for a local farm owner through the harvesting season before making their way to Jacob’s one-bedroom apartment, where they all stayed.
During these years as the war was ending, Paul fell in love with the mountains, learned the trade of cabinetmaking and met his future wife, Hilda. Eventually, a family member sponsored them to come to the United States, and after the birth of their son, Paul and Hilda moved to Chicago.
From Chicago to Colorado
Paul mastered his trade as a cabinetmaker, and he and Hilda had another child, this time a daughter. After spending 14 years in Chicago, the family moved to Colorado. Paul loved the mountains ever since he lived in Austria, and after moving to Colorado, he’s never left.
Today, Paul loves watching soccer and baseball – he’s a huge Colorado Rockies fan – and his favorite place on earth is Rocky Mountain National Park. He and his family spend a lot of their free time hiking and camping, and the outdoors invigorates him.
He talks openly about his war stories and even gave a presentation to his church, which was filmed and later presented to his friends and neighbors at Atria Westminster, with Paul answering questions afterward.
“Paul always thinks of others,” Jessica Romito, the Engage Life Director at Atria Westminster, said. “He believes in paying forward the kindness and compassion that was shown to him by the people who helped his family escape the concentration camp and make their way to Vienna.”
Paul’s experiences as a concentration camp survivor taught him to never give up.
“There is always something worth pushing forward for,” he said. “You should live with what you have been given and be thankful for every day on this planet.”
To read more stories about Atria residents, visit AtriaSeniorLiving.com/Wit-And-Wisdom.