Anna Didenko 1922-2020, Part Two

Anna and her second husband had just left their Ukrainian home, leaving behind Anna’s parents and Anna’s 4-year old son, evading a possible capture and assassination from the Nazis in 1943. During their trek across the SSR, Anna went into labor with her second child. Now, according to who you ask, either Anna was running in the hills and collapsed when a bomb went off near by, or she was running in an alley way in a nearby city and collapsed, she was rescued by some good Samaritans and taken to a nearby hospital, where she gave birth to her second and would be final child, another son.

After being discharged from the hospital while still evading capture, Anna and her second husband, now with a newborn infant, escaped Ukraine altogether and found themselves an international displaced persons camp in Germany later in 1943. During their four year stay in this camp, even as the Second World War came and went, her second son contracted polio, which would affect his hearing, his posture, and his movability. In 1947, Anna and her family relocated to Brussels, Belgium, where work was found and life was beginning anew, including a life-saving vaccination for her second son to stop the polio from spreading throughout the rest of his body.

A chance of a lifetime came in the form of a sponsor in the United States, willing to advocate for Anna and her family to relocate from Brussels to Scranton, New Jersey. Anna, without hestitation, took that chance. In 1956, the family was granted asylum as war refugees. But the transition from European life to American life was not easy, as Anna would find out.

Anna’s third known hardship in life came when she and her second son came home from the store one day to find her second husband hanging from a rope off of their back porch in 1957. Without a father figure in her second son’s life, Anna made sure she made ends meet to keep them both safe and sound.

In 1958, Anna came across a man whom she had met sometime before, back in Ukraine, now living in the United States. She and this man knew each other while her second husband was serving in the Ukrainian Auxillary Police. They decided to marry, and the new family moved from New Jersey to Cleveland, Ohio.

For the next 28 years, life was more stable and less dramatic. Anna’s second son married and had two children, a daughter and an enby afab (assigned female at birth). Anna and her third husband bought a house in Lakewood, Ohio, where they resided until her third husband’s tragic passing in 1986, where he had a heart attack while painting the side of his car garage. Anna left the house to her second son and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where she would reside for almost 25 years.

In 1988, a letter came to Anna par avion from the USSR from a man claiming he was looking for his long lost mother. It was from her first son, the one she left behind in Ukraine to be raised by her parents. In August 1990, after being separated for over 47 years, Anna and her first son were reunited in Cleveland. Anna’s first son would keep in contact with her through postal correspondence until his passing in 2006.

Anna’s final known hardship in life came when she fell and broke her hip in 2012, causing her to move back to Cleveland to be close to her second son and his family. Anna was never fond of Cleveland’s harsh winters, she told me in a 2015 chat. It reminded her too much of Ukraine’s seasonal suffering. So to give up living in the sunshine of Florida to return to the cold of Ohio was, in my words, a bit of a drag.

Anna passed away peacefully on December 18, 2020 in Parma, Ohio. She is survived by her second son (daughter-in-law) and by her first son’s widow, three grandchildren, and possible great-grandchildren (the number I do not know of).

She was a legend. She may not have been perfect, but she was perfect for me. I love her and miss her greatly.

Я вас люблю, Баба. I love you, Baba.

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