MELBOURNE Holocaust survivor Marianne Schwarz, 98, could not have imagined she would also become Victoria’s oldest COVID-19 survivor.
Vienna-born Marianne marked her 98th birthday at Cabrini Malvern Hospital on Saturday, where she had spent three weeks with COVID-19. But her birthday present came this week when two successive tests came back negative.
Her troubles began after her cleaner visited her home unit early in July. Feeling unwell the next day, the cleaner took a COVID test which came back positive. On hearing the news, Marianne’s niece Karin Zafir took her to be tested and the result also came back positive.
“Karin happened to be at my place and she took me immediately to be tested,” Marianne recounted to The AJN. Her niece drove her to hospital, both wearing masks in the car. Zafir later had multiple tests, but these were negative.
At Cabrini, Marianne developed an upset stomach, diarrhoea, and had a fever reaching 39.4 degrees. Additionally, she contracted bacterial pneumonia and a flare-up of pre-existing bronchitis. But with her sense of humour unabated, she quipped, “I had a lovely view [from the hospital room]. I felt important because I was locked up.”
On Monday she tested negative; she was discharged the next day and is recuperating at her niece’s home for two weeks. “I can’t say I feel particularly sick,” she said, “I’m a bit more tired maybe.”
The resilient great-aunt plans to return to her independent lifestyle. In fact, she was driving a car until her COVID illness.
During the Holocaust, Marianne was transported to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. After the war, she lived in Sweden before emigrating to Australia in 1946.
She later visited Europe to marry Joschi (Joseph) Schwarz, and the couple returned to Australia in 1952. In 1971, she completed a welfare officers’ course and was employed by Jewish Welfare (now Jewish Care Victoria). For 15 years she worked as an officer for Victorian community services and for the Children’s Court for a decade.
Retiring at 65, Marianne devoted her time to B’nai B’rith, where she is a long-time member of the Raoul Wallenberg Unit. Through Courage To Care, she relates her Shoah experiences to Victorian schoolchildren, and is a member of WIZO Masada.
Elated to have “such wonderful news to share”, B’nai B’rith Victoria’s executive development officer Frances Stiglec reported to members, “Marianne is the oldest survivor of COVID-19 in Victoria – she is one awesome woman.”