For the JC September 10 2020
Avram Woidislawsky is a survivor in every sense. The Philadelphia resident, who was born in 1940 in the Siberian mountains region, spent the Holocaust as a little boy moving from town to town in southern Russia with his parents.
This week he and his family are looking forward to celebrating Succot after Mr Woidislawsky, now 80, emerged from hospital after 81 days on a ventilator, beating the coronavirus and being described as a “hero” by his doctors. For 59 days he was in a coma, and then spent a further nine weeks in rehab in hospital.
But his relieved family were not surprised that Mr Woidislawsky survived Covid-19. Not only was his early life tough and touched by tragedy; but as a hyper-active senior citizen he spent much of his time in extreme physical exercise, ranging from water-skiing and horse-riding to ziplining upside down. He’s certain that his recovery owes much to his pre-pandemic active lifestyle, and urges others of his age to get out and exercise as much as they can.
After the war ended, Mr Woidislawsky’s parents decided to return to their country of birth, Poland, to see if they could find any of their 16 siblings or other family. But every single relative had been murdered; and so they moved to the new state of Israel in 1950.
Avram Woidislawsky was 10 years old and finished his education in Israel, followed by three years in the IDF. In high school in Netanya he met his wife, Rita, and they moved to Philadelphia in 1967, where they raised their two daughters. Mr Woidislawsky started out washing cars and serving petrol but soon began a successful career in property and investment.
To mark his 80th birthday this year, Mr Woidislawsky had “a huge party with 250 guests”. His two younger brothers came, one from Israel, and out of all the guests, only the three brothers fell ill from coronavirus. And only Mr Woidislawsky got the condition so badly. Two weeks after the party he was hospitalised. His wife, Rita, says he was the only patient with corona in the University of Pennsylvania Hospital when he was first admitted but many patients were admitted — and died — while he was in the ICUt.
Rita says her husband’s recovery is “a miracle”, while he himself says: “I guess I was pretty strong and beat Covid. Whatever it took to survive. I’m a pretty good survivor. This is my goal and this is my dream — to be the same as I used to be before this disease”. Rita says he’s talking about zip lining again, and laughs.