Yevgeniya Belaya – Gone but not forgotten online
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Yevgeniya Belaya

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Yevgeniya Belaya began every morning with calls to her two daughters. “No matter what, 8 a.m.,” Milana Granovskiy said in an interview. “Wherever I am. On vacation. At work. If I was at work, she would want to make sure I got there OK. ‘Did the trains run well?’” The family always kept close, ever since emigrating from Uzbekistan to New York nearly 30 years ago, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Over the years, Yevgeniya — Zhenya, they called her — struggled with her weight and diabetes, rarely leaving her Brooklyn home for anything other than a family gathering. When the coronavirus pandemic forced her children and grandchildren to stay put, the daily check-ins remained a comforting ritual. Then, earlier this month, after having trouble breathing and staying awake, Yevgeniya was rushed by ambulance, and without her phone, to the hospital. Days later the tight-knit Jewish family would learn she had tested positive for COVID-19. A few days after that, Yevgeniya died at age 73. She and her husband, Yuriy, had been married for more than 50 years. “She was afraid to die alone,” Granovskiy said. “Unfortunately she died this way.” Over her final six days, Yevgeniya was cut off completely from her family. No visitors were allowed, and there was no one willing or able to smuggle in a phone. Calls to nurses overwhelmed with patients went unreturned. The family was lucky if they got one update a day on her condition. “I get it, they’re super busy, but there’s no connection there,” Julie Peysakhova, one of Yevgeniya’s granddaughters, told BuzzFeed News. “They’re focused on getting their patients what they need, not on the family members calling. They would say they would give a call back, but nobody would call back.” It was a devastating end for a family that revolved around their matriarch. In the former Soviet Union, Yevgeinya had worked as a bookkeeper in Tashkent. After settling in the US, she transitioned into childcare out of her Brooklyn home, including for her four grandchildren.