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An American Journey
With no place to hide, Frima Sidorenko hunkered down in the trenches, her infant son in one arm and her medical bag in another.
As bombs flew overhead and landed within ear shattering distance, dirt and debris scattered, burying those occupying the trenches.
Still holding her baby, Sidorenko dug herself out of the trench by working through the dirt with her elbows, eventually freeing herself.
As a nurse during World War II in Stalingrad, Russia, Sidorenko braved the front lines.
She was instrumental in saving the lives of numerous Russian Army soldiers and civilians, often having to hand over her son to others standing nearby as she provided medical care to the wounded.
Sidorenko will be among World War II veterans honored during the 64th anniversary celebration of Victory Day May 7 at the Jewish Community Center in Bexley.
Victory Day marks the end of World War II in Europe and the day - May 8, 1945 - when Allied nations announced the surrender of German forces.
The event will include a special meal, a memorial service with a candle lighting ceremony and entertainment by singer and emcee Tatyana Yassenov and the Arkadiy Gips Band.
May 7 also marks a special day for Sidorenko - her 95th birthday.
Although advanced in her age, Sidorenko's memory is still sharp.
She remembers the day when she saw her parents and three brothers for the last time before being separated from her family. All were killed during the war - a memory that still brings tears to her eyes today.
Sidorenko also recalls the horrific reality of war.
During the Battle of Stalingrad - known as the bloodiest battle in modern history with nearly 2 million casualties - Sidorenko assisted in the efforts to cross the Volga River in advance of the German 6th Army and other Axis forces around the city.
The battle was the first large-scale German defeat of World War II, but it came with a price. The battle was marked by disregard for military and civilian casualties on both sides.
Sidorenko recalls how Russian forces told the civilians they would provide a boat for their escape from the bombings if the civilians assisted the military by crossing the Volga River ahead of the soldiers.
"The civilians were human shields," Sidorenko said through a translator, her friend, Raisa Patlashenko.
"This was the biggest battle and she was in this mess," Patlashenko added.
Watching civilians fall around her didn't stop Sigorenko from doing what she could to help. Putting her own life at risk, Sidorenko was a hero, Patlashenko said, and continues to be one today.
"She likes to help people," Patlashenko said. "She likes to save people. She never lost her nursing skills."
Patlashenko is the director of the Russian Acculturation program at the JCC. The program offers roughly 500 immigrants a social center and a source for advice about everyday life in a new country.
Since emigrating from Russia to the United States in 1996, Sidorenko has spent countless hours volunteering with several community programs. Sidorenko resides at Heritage Tower, and assists with serving lunches at the JCC, as well as helping to lead exercise classes at both the JCC and Heritage Tower.
She was honored last year for 101 hours of volunteer service - totaling 925 hours of lifetime service - at LifeCare Alliance. She also was honored in 2008 as a Patriot of the Year by the Help Hospitalized Veterans organization.
Sidorenko credits her youthfulness to staying active and giving back. She also is thankful for the opportunities she now has here in the United States.
"America is the best country," she said, wiping away tears.
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