- Hi, grandma.
- How are you doing'?
- Good, thanks.
(upbeat Italian music) - [Narrator] I grew up in my Italian grandmother's kitchen.
- I have to tell you they smell delicious.
- [Narrator] As she chopped, grated, salted, peppered, and stirred, if you've ever felt comfortably held, fed, or heard.
Would you like to taste it?
- [Narrator] That's what it was like to be around my grandmother's table.
When Grandma was about to turn 100, I thought I'd better film her because no one is going to believe that at age 99 she's still working out.
I asked her, do you have a few words of wisdom for me?
And that was the beginning of this project.
We might say we honor our elders, but we are often separated from them and deprived of their experience and wisdom.
And they all have a story to tell if you just take the time to listen.
40 interviews later, 3,000 years of collective life experience, we listened.
(upbeat Italian music) (gentle acoustic guitar music) (typewriter sound effect) - Oh, I think a life well lived, - Is probably just being endlessly engaged in whatever your passion is.
- To be able to do things that you like to do.
Set a goal and try to achieve it.
- Doing what I believe in, following what I believe in.
- Having friends that support you.
I think having good friends is very, very important.
It is in my life.
- Perhaps knowing when to say, no, to certain opportunities and when to say, yes, to certain ones that might sound a little iffy.
- To be very contented within your own skin and to be very self-accepting.
- A lot of luck and being involved in something that you really enjoy doing.
- To have the respect of the people that are closest to you and that you love, respect.
- I know that I find it difficult to live alone so I never did live alone.
I always had a partner and saw to it to have a partner.
And was quite successful at it, I must say.
- A life well lived is accomplishing your goals.
- Being happy, loving people, and being peaceful within yourself.
- I think what keeps me going is my own internal curiosity.
People will say to me, "You're so curious."
- And I think it's important in life is taking chances and risking, facing new situations, learning new skills, and not getting in a rut.
- If you can say that I've made the world a better place because I've gone through it, then I think that's a life well lived.
- Live one day at a time.
(laughing) Tomorrow comes soon enough.
(upbeat Italian music) - My name is Lou Tedone, and I am 92 years of age.
I'm up at 4:15 in the morning.
I get to the gym by a little before five, work out 'til six, so I can get home by six to make mozzarellas for my daughter's deli and get to the store by nine, 9:30.
Get the mozzarellas there.
I learned that if you twirl them, they go faster.
I gave myself a nickname many, many years ago, Lucky Louie.
And the reason I gave that name is that I have been very, very lucky in love, had a fantastic wife who raised nine kids very successfully, and just a gifted, wonderful person.
Well, my wisecrack is the reason we had nine kids is that I had an oversexed Italian wife who couldn't keep her hands off me.
And since I never get headaches, I couldn't say no.
I used to say that when my wife was alive, and she would just snicker.
You know, she had a great sense of humor.
She had to have to survive with that many kids and me.
(upbeat Italian music) And as you can see, I am still married and always will be married.
- I couldn't possibly form a relationship with another person, just impossible.
(gentle piano music) My wife passed away 22 years ago.
The grieving never really stops.
The difference is the intensity.
You know, I would cry at the drop of a hat if certain songs like "I'll Never Love This Way Again" when you hear.
After a while you just hear the song and say, gee, I was lucky, was married to her.
There are many things that go into a marriage, but to me if you would take one thing that's most important, and that is mutual respect.
If you have mutual respect for your partner's feelings, thoughts, actions, you have the basis for a successful marriage.
In the name of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, amen.
The old expression, famiglia prima.
Famiglia prima means family first.
- [Group] Amen.
- I have a very, very fine family.
As I've told the kids always that happiness is a state of mind.
You can be happy with what you have or miserable with what you don't have.
So, you make the decision.
And I have always learned to be happy with what you have.
We grew up during the Depression.
We didn't have very much.
So, we learned to be economical and frugal, but we were very secure.
We had food on the table.
We had a comfortable bed, clean clothes.
You don't need much more.
(upbeat Italian music) I started making mozzarellas back in 1941.
I still remember the first one I made looked more like a banana than a mozzarella.
I remember my older brother standing there laughing.
My parents had an Italian grocery store in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.
We had no employees.
It was Mama, Papa, myself, and two brothers.
My mother and father only had five years elementary education in Italy.
But they were bright, intelligent hard workers.
And they taught me work ethic.
They never took a day's vacation, and I never, ever heard them complain.
(gentle piano music) My father died at 50 years of age.
I was 17 at the time, high school senior, and I wanted to be a doctor.
And I was wondering if that's going to be at all feasible.
My mother was able to handle the store.
My brothers and I were able to help.
When I was in medical school, I was up at six in the morning, would make the mozzies, go to medical school, get home about four to five, then I would help my mother in the store because that's when we were busy.
When we'd close the store, I'd have dinner and then study 'til midnight.
And, you know, there's an old cliche, an old statement, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."
(upbeat Italian music) I started practice in 1953, and I was on call 24 hours seven days a week.
And I feel very, very fortunate and blessed because I loved what I did.
In the summer, I averaged 45 patients a day.
In the winter, I averaged 60 to 65 patients a day.
My rule was if a kid was sick, and the parent was worried, I want to see that kid.
When parents get a newborn baby, I'd tell them it's all very simple at the beginning.
You feed them at one end.
You wipe them at the other end.
And you love them in between.
(gentle piano music) As far as living a well lived life, I say that number one is that you have helped a lot of people, been a support, and enjoyed life.
I've always taught the kids that no matter what you are, whatever you're going to be, teacher or street cleaner or whatever, do the best you can.
As I look back on my life, I've always been very fortunate and with that I have developed a positive attitude, and I've kept it all the way through life.
That's my nature.
(gentle piano music) - My name is Emmy Cleaves.
I was born in the beautiful capital city of Latvia, Riga, 86 years ago.
Would you believe it or not?
(typewriter sound effect) (tank rumbling) Riga had been occupied once before by the communist Russians, and then the Germans came, and we lived under that occupation.
And then, the Russians were coming back, and my mother said she would not allow herself to be subjected to another Russian occupation.
And so, we left and fled west.
Where our escape turned out to be very unfortunate because we wound up in a forced labor camp in Poland in Danzig.
But then, things got from bad to worse.
Russian military forces were advancing on the area, and when the bombs started falling, the camp guards left.
And everybody scrambled to get out wherever they could.
Word was that the city was encircled by the Russians like a noose around it and that there was one way to get maybe on the train.
And so, my mother got us in the train station.
(air raid siren) There was continuous chaos and continuous air raids.
My mother fought her way up into the train, and I was passing up the few things that we had when there was an air raid siren came.
And they shut the door, and I was left on the platform.
The train just pulled out, and the police just swept everybody off the platform.
And there I was.
- [Narrator] And how old were you?
- I was 15.
(gentle piano music) I was pretty much devastated at that point.
I lost my country.
I lost my mother now, almost lost my life, and you're sort of in the shell shocked.
You really don't know.
Ultimately, I was taken in by a German schoolteacher, and like a substitute mother, she was really a wonderful woman.
It was an extremely sad time because I was grieving.
I was trying to be strong and brave, but in the evening I'd sit in this alcove.
And that's where I would cry.
I learned when a lot of bad things happen to you you cannot become a victim.
Never become a victim.
Because there's always hope.
There's always an ability to rise out of that.
(crowd cheering) Ultimately, the war came to an end, and the authorities gathered up the refugees again.
Everybody wanted to go somewhere else.
Nobody wanted to stay in Germany.
And so, I had, of course, since I was born on the Fourth of July, I absolutely belonged in the U.S.A. And that's how I got to be an Angeleno (laughing).
When Stalin died, and it was safe to write to relatives in Latvia, I did.
Before you could not write because receiving mail from the West meant a trip to Siberia.
My mother, ultimately, returned to Latvia.
She was permitted to come.
In 1960 she got here.
And we met at the Los Angeles Airport, and, of course, it was a moving, thrilling moment.
Where we both had thought that the other one may not be alive, but, of course, nature intended differently, They are testing our strength.
And then, on New Year's Eve in 1962 to '63 I met my soulmate.
(upbeat jazz music) - There was a California German-American Club Ball at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, and I was the attorney that created the California German-American Club at the time.
And I attended it obviously.
And there was this blond babe sitting at a table with friends, and I thought, hmm, that looks pretty hot.
- It was like across a crowded room.
Like the song says, you know, you met your intended.
- So, I went over, and I introduced myself to her.
I had hair then, and I was a little better looking than I am now.
- And from there on, we - Got married in December 6 of 1964.
- Have lived our lives very, very happily for 50 plus years so (laughing).
We are two very different people, but I think we complement each other.
He is a pilot, and I'm a yogini.
And he'd never keep me from doing what I want to do, and I'd never keep him from doing what he is doing.
I am a yogini.
I live, breathe, and practice yoga.
I started practicing when my son was about two years old.
I really didn't know that I was practicing yoga.
I started in a dance class, and I said, yoga, what is yoga?
And I just bought every book that I could find and studied about it until I was fortunate enough to run across a Bikram yoga demonstration.
And I was just totally enthralled.
I teach because I think it's so important.
It's a passion.
It's an obsession.
I want as many people to do yoga as possible because it is a priceless gift that you can give to yourself.
Health is really where everything is at.
The quality of your life is completely governed by the state of your health.
At my age, if I hadn't done yoga, I'd probably be sitting here, you know, and (moaning) be sad and tired.
It's not your numerical age.
It's your biological age.
So, think young, act young, feel young.
Forget the number.
- A lot of people, my friends, they said, "Oh, I'm getting too old.
"I can't do this, I can't do that."
And I said, "Oh, phooey with that."
If I wanna do something, I do it.
And if you say, I can't do it, then you won't be able to do it.
Just go out and do it (laughing).
(gentle piano music) My name is Susy Eto Bauman, and I'm 95 years old or 95 years young (laughing).
I'd like to live to be over 100.
I'm trying to eat well, be healthy, not get sick, and be active, not sit around and watch TV.
I'm never still for a moment.
I like to go on hikes or walks, even just to go walk up to the mailbox.
It's kind of up hills, and I find it a little bit harder to go up.
But coming down is a joy (laughing).
Our family, we have a big farm in Los Osos.
When I was growing up, it was very carefree, but we were in camp during World War II because we were Japanese.
We were put in camps.
- When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, our West Coast became a potential combat zone.
Living in that zone were more than 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry.
Neither the army nor the war relocation authority relished the idea of taking men, women, and children from their homes, their shops, and their farms.
So, the military and civilian agencies alike determined to do the job as a democracy should with real consideration for the people involved.
- We were taken out of our homes.
We had to leave everything, and we could only take what we could carry.
My son was still small so I had to carry him.
I could barely take a duffel bag with a change of clothes and my son's diapers and things.
We were disgusted with government for putting us in camp.
Why put us in camp, you know?
Just because we were at war with Japan.
We don't even know Japan, you know?
And at that time, I hadn't even been there.
During the war, I went to three different camps.
There's nothing to do.
So, when they hit that bell for breakfast, we all, like cattle, got out of our barracks.
A lot of people were very discouraged, and they wouldn't, they just sat inside their barracks.
They won't come out except to go eat when the mess bell rang.
But what's the use being that way?
I mean, you know, make the most of what (laughing).
Although we can't do much.
So, my mother was with me, and she loved to sew and knit.
They had people from camp teaching knitting.
So, we kept busy, because otherwise, you know, you just rot if you don't do anything.
So, I had my little boy's there playing outside, and I got a kick out of my son.
He didn't know he was Japanese.
So, he says, "Come on, gang."
He's kind of a leader like (laughing).
He says, "Let's go get those Japs."
And "bang, bang, bang," he's going.
And then, my one neighbor came in said, "You know, your son is saying let's go get those Japs.
"You'd better tell him you're Japanese."
(laughing) He just thought he was an American.
And so, I said, "Ronny, you'd better not "say those kinds of things 'cause we're Japanese."
He says, "I am?"
(gentle piano music) When my husband volunteered to go to army, I told him, "How come you volunteer with the 442nd?
"You know, after they take us out of our home, "put us in camp like this."
And I said, "You know, this is wartime, "and there's no guarantee that you're coming back.
"And what are we going to do?
"What am I going to do with the two children "if something happens to you?"
He says, "You know, that's the very reason I have to go."
They made this group of 442nd Regiment because they were so angry at the United States for taking us out of California, putting us in camp like this.
So, we have to show them.
If they can't understand the words we tell them, we have to show them in action that we are real loyal to America.
He has to go for the children and our grandchildren and the future generations after that to show them that we did the right thing.
So, America won't do this again to the rest of us.
I didn't quite agree because although he was right, I still wanted him by me, you know.
(gentle piano music) My husband was killed in the war.
You know, at first I thought, well, I lost my husband.
There's nothing to live for.
My dad took me to various doctors, but nobody could help me.
I was just despondent, you know.
I didn't feel like living anymore.
But one day my friends, while we were in camp, she said, "You have to wake up and live "because if something happens to you, "what's going to happen to you children?"
Then, I finally woke up, and I started to live.
And so, I start to live for my children.
And they grew up to be fine kids.
I'm very happy and proud of them.
I wish that my husband was still with me, but I hear him encouraging me on to do your best.
You're doing okay, you know.
So, that kept me going.
Life is not easy.
There's lots of obstacles and things that you have to overcome, but you have to be strong enough and have a positive way of thinking so that you could overcome anything that comes your way.
(upbeat drumming) - My name is Blanche Brown.
I am 78 years old.
I have a pacemaker, and I have a titanium knee.
My students call me the Bionic Woman (laughing).
I love dancing, and then the drumming always just sets something off in me.
I was a housewife until I was 35, and I went back to school and discovered they had all these great dance classes.
I got so involved that I was asked to become a part of Wajumbe, which was a dance company.
And I started to teach dance after a while, and here I am still dancing, still teaching.
(gentle piano music) I also am still married to Willie Brown, former mayor of San Francisco and former Speaker of the state legislature.
We've been separated since 1980, I think.
Since we've been separated, we really have been more friends than when we were married.
- [Crowd] Freedom, freedom.
- [Man] What do we want now?
- The whole Civil Rights Movement was a big thing for me.
I remember that during the early '50s, I guess, I was still in junior high school, and my grandmother was arrested.
She was on a bus, and a woman got on the bus, and told her she had to get up so that she could sit down.
And my grandmother said, no.
My grandmother said that you don't let anybody talk about you, that you be proud of who you are.
She was a tough woman.
During the Civil Rights Movement, I would be on the picket lines all the time.
The first sit-in was actually started by me and a friend of mine.
I went to a house because it was open, and when we walked in, all the salesmen ran out through the garage.
So, they sent a black janitor in to tell us that the house was closed.
So, the next day, we brought friends with us (laughing).
And the newspaper, and that was the first sit-in in San Francisco.
(gentle piano music) I had always believed if you prayed for something, and you worked towards something, you would finally get it.
When I was 50, it was like suddenly there were doors that were opening, and I was walking through them.
That's when I really started to find out what was important to me, what did I want to do, and to go and do it and not wait for permission to do it.
I became an initiated priest in the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria 31 years ago.
After my initiation, I started having the confidence in myself that I could do what I really love to do and to make it meaningful not just to my life but to people who are around me and in my community.
And I really enjoy everything that I do, my family, dancing still, and, of course, my newest passion, quilting.
I like working with my hands.
I used to draw.
That led me into working with fabrics.
This one, I just love all the bright colors.
And then, I wanted to do something that was totally different on the inside so you open it up and blam.
You've got all that bright yellow (laughing).
Life goes by so quickly.
Take time to just enjoy what's happening right now.
- Younger people these days are so involved with their iPhones, walkin' around, texting, they're oblivious to everything else in the world.
They should understand about the beauty around them.
- To be really enjoying what you have.
Not to continuously be dissatisfied.
Don't yearn for things.
They don't make you happy.
- There's no secret.
I mean, life plays with you, doesn't it?
And if you can manage it, you have to battle it.
It's a jungle out there.
- Luck has the aroma of perspiration.
You don't get lucky without working very hard for things.
- Well, this came from a Sunday school teacher, and she said, "There's so much good in the worst of us, "and so much bad in the best of us.
"It hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us."
And I think that I've lived my life with that realization and really always looked for the good in people.
- I think you should know that I'm terminally optimistic.
When I wake up in the morning, I expect something good to happen.
I don't know exactly what it would be, and sometimes it's postponed until the next day or the day after.
But inevitably there's something wonderful that will happen.
- Don't sweat the little things.
Do the best you can.
- The marriage is like a rubber band.
You can only stretch it so much, and then after that it may break.
So, if you don't wanna break your marriage, just relax back, and you still have an intact rubber band.
- I've always felt you need to sit loosely in the saddle of life as you go down that long trail.
- Work a little less, spend a little less, enjoy life a little more.
- My name is Rose Albano Ballestero.
But as a teacher, I would tell my students, just call me Mrs. B.
And I was born on July the 18th, 1936.
My mother was from Mexico.
It was during the time of Pancho Villa.
My mom escaped and crossed the border illegally and settled in California.
(gentle acoustic guitar music) My father comes from the Philippines.
He was 15 years old at the time.
The Filippinos came to work as farm workers.
And he worked in the fields and followed the crops to Imperial Valley, and that's where he met my mother.
I came from a large family, eight brothers and sisters and mom and dad.
You know, there were times when we didn't have any food.
And we were hungry, and my mom would say, "toma agua", drink water, you know, to fill your stomach.
We'd go to bed hungry.
We lived in a little barrio, which people in the community knew as Little Manila.
I remember that we used to pick walnuts.
Picking walnuts, your hands are very, very black and also your knees because in order to pick walnuts you have to get down on your knees, pick the walnuts, and put them in the bucket.
And I remember going to junior high, and I'd tell my mom that I don't want to go to school because I didn't wanna get dressed for P.E.
because my hands and my knees were dark.
But going to school, we had to travel to go the school where the Mexican children were accepted.
Walking back one time, these students were making fun of us because we lived in Little Manila.
You know what they would call us?
They would call us monkeys.
My mom would always fix burritos for us in a brown bag, and Helen Peterson would come with this really cute little lunch pail.
And we would sit together during lunch, and so we became very, very close friends.
And she is the one that said, "Would you like to join Girl Scouts?"
There were no other Latinas in the troop.
I was the only Latina in our Girl Scout troop.
From that experience, being in Girl Scouts, I was able to experience a world that was outside of living in Little Manila.
I feel that being in Girl Scouts really opened my eyes to other opportunities because you learn so much about learning different skills that give you a good foundation in life.
The best thing that I learned being in Girl Scouts is to help others.
When somebody needs help, you're there to help them.
I really believe that the Girl Scouts motivated me to work hard and get good grades.
And I had a teacher who took an interest in me.
Mrs. Williamson was my Spanish teacher, and the reason I took Spanish is because I wanted to get an "A," and I wanted to bring my grade point average up.
And she said, "Do you always want to be a farm worker?"
And I said, "No, but, you know, that's what we do."
And she said, "No, you can do something better."
In my mind, I always would dream about being something better, and, you know, that's the, that's the American Dream, that we all wanna do something better.
She was the one that encouraged me to go on with my education.
And I graduated number two in my class.
She helped me buy clothes for my graduation because we were poor, and she helped me get a scholarship to the community college.
It took me over seven years to get my bachelor's and my teaching credentials, and I'm proud to say that I came back to the junior high that I attended as the assistant principal to be a role model for those students that were there, that they can do it.
Beause you can probably say "si se puedes," that you can do it.
And even though I'm 80, I still want finish my PhD.
I have six more units at USC.
No matter what age you are, education never stops.
You still keep learning.
Silver, gold, lavender, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, oh.
That makes me salivate.
(slow guitar music) The reason that I paint is because I don't have words for what I feel, for what's pulsing in me.
My name is Ciel Bergman, and I'm 76 years old.
A painting is a very strange phenomenon.
It doesn't really exist.
It's not there.
It's pigment with a bunch of hairs, and it's the psyche, and the mind, and the intellect, and the history, and the knowledge of each person who views it.
No painting looks the same to any two people.
We're masters of illusion, painters are.
We try to paint the perfect world or the most honest world.
Picasso said that the painting is a lie that says something of the truth.
I'm driven by curiosity, just always.
Why does it work?
Why does it not work?
How does it work?
I love chemistry and physics.
So, I've been an RN, and I've been a university professor.
And an environmentalist, and a writer, lecturer, I mean, a number of things, yeah.
You're not ever stuck as long as your curious and willing and, yeah, follow your passion.
You can do it (laughing).
So, we are now driving on plasphalt, which was laid in 2001.
Plasphalt derived out of an installation I did in Santa Barbara called Sea of Clouds What Can I Do.
With Nancy Merrill, I walked up and down the beaches for months and collected all the non-biodegradable plastics and styrofoam and filled a gallery with garbage.
I generally was asking the community what do we, this is littering our beaches.
This is killing our other species.
Our brothers and sisters, what are we going to do about this?
I had this idea that we could granulate the waste plastic and add it to the highways as aggregate.
We got a patent.
We built a plant.
We went bankrupt from lack of support.
It's very difficult to be a pioneer.
And I think that we worked so hard at it and for so long.
It still brings tears to my eyes.
(gentle instrumental music) What I did is just submerge myself in painting, by painting 18 hours a day.
The idea will get out.
They're very proudly making plastic highways in India.
Whereas our nation still is not getting it, but America's way behind.
We need a lot more collaboration on this planet and less competition.
Before I met Edward, I lived out in Petternal for four years alone after my partner died.
And then, I met this glorious gentlemen, Edward (laughing).
- Hello (laughing).
I'm Edward Okun.
And the question is how did I meet Ciel who is my partner and has been for the past approximately five years.
My wife had passed away in 2007.
I had told my wife when we knew that she was terminal that I was gonna be a hermit.
And she said, "Don't you dare.
"You know, you don't want to do that.
"Someone will eventually come along."
- It was at a Christmas party, and it was for mutual friends.
- There was this beautiful woman who was sitting on a couch.
- I saw this gentleman across the room in a bright blue sweater with a radiant smile coming toward me at the speed of light (laughing).
- I introduced myself, and she introduced herself.
- And we immediately got into conversation actually about science.
- Before long, you know, we were just talking away about almost anything and everything.
- The rest is history.
It was just very quickly we decided that we had a lot to discuss.
I think the most important that we had to learn, because we, of course, at that age had a whole prior history, was just leave that history behind.
This is now.
This is present time.
This is brand new.
Look at that, it's beautiful.
That's the beauty, I think, of being in partnership, is having someone to share something with.
When you make a discovery, or you read a beautiful piece of poetry, or you find a new piece of music, you want to share it.
That's the first impulse is (gasping).
And to see reciprocal passion in your partner.
You see it mirrored back.
Yeah, that's fantastic.
It more than doubles it.
It sort of exponentially, logarithmically increases it.
Probably the most important thing in a relationship is absolute honesty and absolute respect of the other.
And what I've learned is never try to change anyone, not one iota.
The only person who can adjust is yourself.
Leave the other person totally alone.
That's very important to know.
I wish I had known that when I was very young.
You try to help or try to change or.
None of that works, no.
We are each the imperfect beauty that we are (laughing).
- Which is your good side?
- I don't have a good side.
- You always used to say to me, shoot this side.
- No, no, you said that.
- [Marion] No, you said it.
- I don't have a good side.
They're all bad sides.
We're both sort of on the rebound from previous relationships.
But Marion came over here from England to stay with her cousin who was a bridge partner of my sister and who mentioned that, gee, Marion would like to have somebody show her around San Francisco.
Can we set up a blind date?
And that was it, and on the way home from the blind date, Marion said in typical British fashion, "Why don't you knock me up in the morning?"
Knock me up in the morning, you know what this means in Britain, of course.
Give me a call, telephone me.
But not (laughing), but I, well, I finally understood what she meant.
(upbeat jazz music) - The accomplishment that I'm most proud of surviving 54 years of marriage.
That's an accomplishment.
I'm just going to tell you that that, I think that tree is dead.
- No, it's not.
- It is.
- No, it's not.
- It is.
We have lots and lots of arguments, and sometimes I think that helps to cement a marriage.
It doesn't allow for dullness.
And really having a lot of basic commonality.
Morally we believe the same.
Politically we believe the same.
And as it turns out, of course, our beliefs, our religious beliefs, stem from the same thing.
(somber instrumental music) One of the biggest influences in my life has, of course, been the fact that I was on the Kindertransport in 1939 when Nazism was really at its height.
(people shouting in German) The Kindertransport was the very first one.
It was an experimental attempt to get children out of Austria into Germany and into Holland and then over to England.
And they did know at the time that this transport would actually make it.
England was incredibly progressive in this way, and they only made a last minute decision to do the rescue.
It was after what was called Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass when the big pogroms happened in Germany and Austria.
- I was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1929, the year of the Great Depression.
My father considered himself much more German than Jewish.
He was a hero in the First World War with all kinds of medals fighting for Germany and thought that this upstart, Hitler, will blow over.
We just have to tough it out.
Kristallnacht changed his mind on that very seriously.
- [Marion] On Kristallnacht, everything Jewish was broken, smashed.
The temples were set on fire.
- On Kristallnacht, I remember clearly my father being whisked away at night from his house and being incarcerated along with 30,000 other Jewish men from Austria or Germany.
Luckily enough, he was released only seven days later because one of the arresting officers had served under him in the First World War, and they got to be very good friends.
But it made him hastily make arrangements to get his family of five out.
- About four weeks after Kristallnacht, on December the 10th, 1938, about 600 of us children met at the main railway station in Vienna.
We had been told to be extremely quiet.
So, things were very hushed.
We all had to wear these around our necks from Vienna onwards so that we could be checked to make sure that it was us.
Parents were crying, children were crying, and I was standing there trying to be very brave.
I said to my mother, "Oh, this is going to be fun.
"We're going to England, and it'll be exciting.
"And we'll meet again."
This is when I become emotional because I feel I never gave my mother the credit she should have had for being so brave as to let me go.
(conductor whistle blowing) The trip on the train, the parts of it that I remember, you know, soldiers, Nazis, coming onboard every so many miles and going through our luggage.
They opened cases and threw things around and just generally tried to harass.
Many of the children had siblings with them, and I didn't have anybody.
So, that's where my independence started, I guess.
(gentle piano music) We managed to get through Austria into Germany, and then into Holland, where everything was so different.
When we crossed the border into Holland, it was like night and day.
The people were so friendly and giving us chocolate and cocoa and cookies and things like that.
After that we had a midnight trip over the North Sea to England, which happened to be the coldest and roughest crossing apparently in memory.
It was a very, very bad winter, and a lot of people were throwing up, of course, on the ship.
We arrived in England, and I saw children disappearing with families.
And I kept thinking why is nobody picking me?
Why am I still here?
After nine days, a family from York up in the north of England picked me.
They were a wonderful childless couple who treated me like their own child.
One of the things that I did was almost daily was say to my foster parents, "Get my mother, bring my mother over, "bring my mother over, bring my mother over."
And eventually, that's what happened.
The Quaker meeting in York managed to send my mother a domestic servant visa.
That's how she came over, just 10 days before the war started.
So, I was very lucky.
I was very fortunate.
(gentle piano music) - We finally got a very last minute ship to London.
Then, two months later we met at dockside, and we got a hold of a tramp steamer that was going straight to San Francisco.
London to San Francisco through the Panama Canal.
Very exciting for a nine year old through the Panama Canal.
I could get lost on the ship going to places where I'm not supposed to be.
And it was very interesting for me.
San Francisco to a nine year old at that time was only earthquake country.
That was the only thing I'd ever heard about it.
I thought, well, there's going to be black lava sand, cardboard shacks, you know, because they couldn't have permanent homes in earthquake country.
I had no idea what to expect.
Then, all of a sudden, you sail into this Golden Gate Bridge, which had just been built a couple of years earlier, and it's quite a shock.
It's quite a shock.
(gentle piano music) - I talk to my plants.
Do you talk to your plants?
It's really important that you make the most of every day.
You never know what tomorrow will bring.
You can't get out of life if you don't put anything into life.
It's like anything else.
There's no free ride.
(gentle acoustic guitar music) - One of the reasons I think we exist is maybe to make a difference.
Hopefully, we make a difference to somebody.
- For Paul and me, it's really important to speak out about what happened to us.
In fact, it's almost an obligation because we hope that others might learn from it.
Maybe in some way it will make them more tolerant towards other people and towards other people's beliefs.
You know, we're not going to be here for, we're lucky to be here at all, but for not much longer.
And then, who's going to tell the history?
And how truthfully will it be told?
- [Paul] The accomplishment that I'm most proud of is family.
- I really enjoy watching the grandchildren maturing into great human beings.
I sometimes look at the whole family being there, and I think, hmmm, we were very lucky, very fortunate.
(gentle piano music) - You know, when you're young, you're immortal.
You know, things, it's a thousand on my right, a thousand on my left, as Kübler-Ross said, but not me.
And the older you get, the more real your mortality becomes.
- Well, you look at flowers dying and animals dying, and one day I will die.
And that's just part of the maturation process.
And hopefully, I will be remembered for maybe a generation or two, and then I'll become a twig on a family tree in a book.
(laughing) Ta da.
- I have a hard time visualizing a world without me or me without a world.
It's hard to think about.
I'm not afraid at this time.
- I have no fear of mortality.
I think I look back at my accomplishments with, my life's accomplishments, with a great deal of satisfaction.
I just hope that I can continue to do good work.
- Make the absolute most out of every day and out of every minute because you're never going to get it back.
You know, try to enjoy each minute as if it were your last minute.
- I don't think about it.
I really don't think about it (laughing).
Because I'm too much living in the present.
I've really learned to just like sit still and enjoy what I have around me right now.
- Well, my own mortality, I don't know.
Takin' it day by day.
What can you do?
You know, I'm happy if I work in the garden a little bit, and then after pretty much done, I'll take off and go visiting widows and friends (laughing).
- You wonder, you know, how much longer can I travel?
Or how much longer can I exercise really like I like to exercise?
It's called futurizing, and it's stupid.
Live in the moment, yeah.
- At 81, I must confess at times I do think about there is an end to this life.
It doesn't particularly frighten me.
I'm in such good health that I mainly wonder when and how?
What will I die from?
I love this quote by Woody Allen who has a lot of wonderful quotes.
"Oh, I'm not afraid of death at all.
"I just don't want to be there when it happens."
And I think that's kind of my attitude.
- An Indian chief once said, "You will be remembered forever "by the tracks you leave behind."
And I'm trying to leave good tracks.
- My name is Evelyn Ricciuti.
I was born in New York September 3rd, 1912.
We lived in the Bronx.
That was an Italian section.
Everybody spoke Italian in those days.
Of course, my parents had just come here from Europe so they weren't speaking English yet.
Well, walking down the street, you said hello to everybody because you knew everybody.
Everybody knew you, whether you knew them or not.
Everybody knew you.
I remember the first automobile, the Ford car.
A friend of ours bought a car and took all of us kids in the neighborhood for a ride.
That was something I still remember like a dream.
(mellow big band music) As a young girl, I remember the women fighting for the right to vote, which meant a whole lot to all the women because before that the men were the boss in everything.
But after women got the right to vote, they became sometimes the breadwinners of the home and leaders in Congress.
So, I grew up in a very important time of life, I think.
(playful piano music) Vividly I remember I was 18 years old.
I went with my mother to vote.
That was an outstanding day for me.
We had very little money.
I mean, everybody was poor.
We would buy the paper for two cents and look for the jobs, listing of jobs.
And then, we'd take the paper, fold it up, and put it in our shoes because our shoes had holes in them.
We didn't have money to go buy new shoes (chuckling).
And me, I was one for shoes and bags and hats, all my life.
- [Narrator] Can you tell the story of how you met Grandpa?
- It's a long story.
- [Narrator] Well, tell us the condensed version.
- I come from a large family.
My brother and John made friends.
He used to come to the house all the time.
Of course, I didn't know at the time why he was coming there.
But I had a young sister, and I thought he was looking to go out with her.
He said, "You want to go for a ride?"
I said, "Okay."
So, I asked my sister.
I said, "Put some makeup on.
"Make yourself pretty."
So we went.
I made her sit next to him.
We went a second time, the same thing.
And then, he said the third time, "Do you have to take your sister every time we go out?"
I said, "No, I don't, why?"
He said, "Well, if I wanted to go with your sister, "I would have asked her."
"Oh," I said.
Meanwhile (laughing) I had this old sweater an old house dress.
Anyway, from then on, we started to go out, and, of course, I never asked my sister anymore.
We were together for 68 years.
And, thank God, I had a good husband.
And I had two wonderful children.
I feel in my lifetime I don't think I ever made an enemy because I always tried to help.
I always gave what I could.
And I made friends very easily.
Being kind and being nice to people, no matter where you are, no matter what the situation, it always comes back to you.
And that's my philosophy of life.
And I love every minute of it.
I love life as it is.
And that's why I like to live.
I want to live.
I want to see more and learn more.
A lot of people expect to see a wrinkled old lady at 103 (laughing).
Everybody wants to know, "what's your secret?"
Age, no matter what age you become, is only a number.
It's how you feel and how you act that makes you that age.
- Alright, so make a really wonderful wish for your 103rd birthday.
- A wonderful wish?
- Well, my wish is that we'd all be together again for another year.
(everyone cheering) - [Narrator] At 103 my grandma is still my inspiration, my North Star, and my guiding light.
I marvel at her resilience and her optimism.
I'm continually inspired by her love of life, but what I treasure the most is what my grandmother has taught me, what she continues to weave into my heart, all the wisdom, laughs, and love.
I could not be who I am if it were not for her.
And for both of us, that's a life well lived.
(camera shutter clicking) - My secret to a happy life is to live life to the fullest every day of your life.
Be good to everybody you know.
Do a good deed when you can.
(upbeat acoustic guitar music) (upbeat big band music) - [Narrator] Grandma, how do you feel about your 15 minutes of fame?
- (laughing) I think it's great, really.
I mean, whoever thought that, first of all, I never thought I'd be living to this age.
All my family's gone, but for whatever, maybe this is the reason why I'm here.
I don't know.
I'll get that 15 minutes.
Where's the beef?
(upbeat Italian music)