JCHE Resident Since 1988
When Mayor Walsh, Congressman Capuano, and many other prominent public figures came to JCHE on February 16, 2016, their primary purpose was to dedicate the new lobby of Ulin House to the memory of Edward A. Fish, a developer of affordable housing and a good friend of JCHE.
But as the dedication ceremony was coming to a close, Congressman Capuano announced that he also wanted to pay tribute to someone else, Naakh Vysoky, a resident of JCHE since 1988. As all heads turned and focused on Naakh, the congressman presented him a plaque personally signed by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama congratulating him on his 95th birthday and thanking him for his many contributions to his community.
The plaque reads:
Please accept our best wishes for a happy 95th birthday!
You have been a part of our great American story, lending your voice to the vibrancy of our Nation and offering your experience and wisdom to those around you. As you mark this occasion, we hope you get the chance to celebrate with friends and loved ones and to reflect on all the memories you have made.
You have our warm wishes for a wonderful birthday and a great year ahead.
Barack and Michelle Obama
When the ceremony ended, Mayor Walsh and Congressman Capuano visited with Naakh for several moments and then State Senator Brownsberger wheeled him into the dining hall for the after-event reception.
Who is this man who commands attention and earns friendship from so many important local and national dignitaries?
The story of Naakh’s life is one of pain, perseverance, dedication, accomplishment and ultimately much joy, love, and respect. Not many of us can say that our life story has been entered into the Congressional Record, but Naakh’s has. So we thought it would be best to tell his amazing story simply by quoting Congressman Capuano as he honored Naakh in the United States Congress on December 18, 2015:
“Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to recognize one of the most distinguished constituents in my district, Naakh Vysoky, who will turn ninety-five on January 3, 2016. Quite simply Mr. Vysoky is a man who overcame some of life's greatest obstacles to become a champion within the field of medicine and a respected leader amongst the Russian Jewish Community.
Naakh Vysoky was born in 1921, in Kishinev, Moldavia, when it was still a part of Romania. In 1940, during an invasion by the U.S.S.R., the Soviets considered his family ``rich'' and took almost everything they owned. Hardship and tragedy again struck Naakh's family in 1941 when Nazi Germany invaded Romania. Naakh witnessed the death of his mother, sister, brother-in-law, and a young nephew. To compound matters further, he also lost all contact with his father.
Forced to make an almost impossible choice, Naakh escaped Nazi persecution by fleeing to the Soviet Union. He was immediately sent to a Siberian concentration camp. After several years in this camp – and having witnessed countless deaths of his friends almost on a daily basis – he was given an option to stay there or join the Soviet Army to fight the Nazis. He chose to fight and was wounded shortly after. While in the hospital during his recovery, Naakh was recruited and trained to become a medical professional. He spent the rest of the war working at that hospital and helping countless wounded soldiers and civilians.
After the war, Naakh embarked upon an extensive search for his father and found him in 1948 in the City of Chernowetz. Although the city had been part of Romania, it was then part of western Ukraine inside the Soviet Union. When the U.S.S.R. closed their borders, Naakh's hopes of emigrating were dashed. However, he was able to find a good hospital job and a place to live in Storoshinetz, one of Chernowetz's suburbs. While there, Naakh was recognized as a talented medical professional who championed efforts to provide the best quality of care for countless people. In 1952, he married his wife Klara, who was a school teacher. Two years later, his daughter Faina was born. His wife Klara became one of the most respected teachers in the region due to her strong advocacy for education and her devotion to her students.
During his time in Storoshinetz, Naakh became increasingly alarmed and appalled at the rampant anti-Semitism that existed under the oppressive Soviet regime. In 1972, due to the international movement against Soviet anti-Semitism, the possibility of immigration became real. However, that same year, Faina was accepted into medical school in Chernowetz. Naakh decided to stay so Faina could attain her medical degree. Once that was achieved, Naakh and his family applied for permission to leave the Soviet Union within a month of Faina's graduation and wedding, and, in October of 1979, left the Soviet Union for New York in the United States.
Upon their arrival in New York, Naakh's grandson Gregory was born. Naakh and Klara dedicated their lives to taking care of Gregory and making sure Faina had every opportunity to study and become a physician in America. It was a very special day for the family when Faina passed her qualifying exam for a foreign medical graduate degree in September 1980, less than a year after their arrival. With great pride, Naakh and Klara watched their daughter, now Faina Shtern, become the first Russian-born physician to be appointed by the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School in 1984, and then recognized as a leader in the field of Radiology, when she became Chief of the Diagnostic Imaging Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute in 1990.
A year later, in 1985, Naakh and Klara followed Faina to Boston, where they had helped countless members of the Russian Jewish Community (RJC) in Brighton and Allston and championed their causes. Several years later, Naakh was elected a leader of the RJC grassroots movement. He has been serving in that capacity ever since and has received wide recognition for his leadership and accomplishments. A number of elected officials, including former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the current Governor Charlie Baker; members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation, members of the Massachusetts State Legislature, former Boston mayor Thomas Menino, and the current mayor of Boston, the Honorable Marty Walsh; and the Boston City Council, have all risen to acknowledge Naakh for his service to the Commonwealth and the Russian Jewish Community.
With all this in mind, I want to acknowledge and sincerely thank Naakh Vysoky for his many contributions and wish him a very happy birthday and pray that he has many more to come.”