Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Profile in Courage - Liliana Berezovschi

Today is the day of the City Hall rally to protect NYC park wildlife and the caring people who feed birds and squirrels.

I am unfortunately 5 hours away in Cortland, NY. But my friend, Liliana is there, frail and fragile as she is.

When one considers what Liliana has been through over the past two years, it's a wonder she is still standing: Surgery, radiation, hundreds of chemo treatments, tests and injections. Stuff that would render most star athletes to their knees.

An immigrant from Romania, Liliana, 75, has known poverty, hardship and hunger much of her life.

Such have been the primary motivations for her compassion and empathy for struggling and hungry wildlife in Central Park.

 "I know what hunger is," she has said to me many times in her thick Romanian accent without going into details.

 And, "What good is the life without purpose?"

Liliana was there for me every night during the brutal, "Polar Vortex" winter of 2015 when we struggled to save starving migratory ducks and geese at the then, iced-over Jackie Onassis Reservoir.

Passers-by thought we were employees of the park.

 "It's nice that the park feeds them," they would say to us.

 That only they knew now that city parks and the Mayor are actually determined to criminalize the very people who feed hungry wildlife in parks. People like Liliana.

I don't know that any press will cover the rally. I know that Roxanne Delgado (organizer of the effort to oppose feeding ban) has sent out press releases and worked tirelessly to defeat the cruel and feckless proposal from day one.

But these days, media seems only interested in the latest Trump tweet. Some people campaigning for the rights of pigeons or squirrels to exist seems like joke to them.

And yet it is about so much more than that.

It's about all the remaining wildlife in city parks.

It's about the elderly, infirm and often disabled people who cannot run marathons or "take hikes," but who deeply empathize and connect with the birds or squirrels of city parks. People willing to tredge out in all kinds of weather to ensure no one goes hungry.

When did things like empathy, kindness, connection and purpose go out of style? When did they become actions to criminalize?
One could argue they are the very qualities that define us as decent  human beings.

This morning Liliana called me to read some prepared remarks she wrote, should she be interviewed by a reporter.

Let's hope she gets opportunity to say them.


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