‘I like this place’ Community Profile: Fanya Tesler
On August 25, Fanya Tesler will be 99 years old.
Arriving in Australia in 1978, as a 58 year old with 40 years’ experience as a pathologist, 30 of them as head of pathology at a children’s hospital in the Ukrainian port of Odessa, but with, as she says, zero English, Fanya found work in Sydney as a house cleaner and babysitter.
In 1983 she moved with her teenage grandson into the Daniel Solander building, one of the 18-storey public housing towers in Waterloo.
Fanya likes living in Waterloo. She says: “Everybody hates Waterloo, because too many drugs, too many dangerous people, they take drugs, they drink, dah, dah, dah.” No, she says, that has not been her experience. “I like this place. My people like this place.”
She says everyone is so friendly. When she rushes for the lift with her walker, they always hold the lift for her. Whenever she goes into the street, people always say hello and she chats to them.
She tells the story of being near a road with her walker and feeling unwell. An Aboriginal man noticed that there was something wrong and came to help her cross the road. Once they had crossed the road, he waited with her and asked if she needed anything else. She said she was so impressed with this behaviour.
In 2014, after 10 years of service, Fanya stepped down as president of Bечные годы (Vechnye gody), a club for Russian-Jewish people. She was 95. When the club first started there were 100 members, but now membership is down to 10 or 12 people because, as she says, people die.
From her point of view, the redevelopment of the Waterloo estate is misguided because in her building she has everything she needs for a good quality of life. The medical centre is nearby, the chemist, the buses.
Her friends are the same age, their children visit, and they have a very active social life, with something on every day. On Monday they meet at the Factory Community Centre in Raglan Street, on Tuesday a special bus takes them to the synagogue in Bondi Junction where they listen to stories about Israel, chat and have lunch, on Friday they meet at Club Redfern, play bingo, have lunch and discuss the news.
On Saturday and Sunday Fanya is responsible for organising bingo and lunch in the community room of the Solander building. She is very grateful to Richard Weekes, Solander’s tenant representative, who arranged to have the room cleaned so they could use it.
When asked what she would like to see happen as a result of the redevelopment, Fanya says, “We cannot wish anything because we have not seen any plans – we do not know what will happen exactly so we cannot talk about this.”
Mila Seredenko, the part-time bilingual Russian educator with Counterpoint Community Services, runs a two-hour information session every Tuesday where Russian speakers can ask questions about the redevelopment, but, she says, people want to know about the detail.
Three options were released on August 2.