Sophia lives on the fourth floor of an old building a little out of the center of the city. We climb the steps and ring the doorbell, holding it down for a few moments so that she can hear it. We listen carefully until we can hear her footsteps and her cane tapping on the wooden floors as she slowly reaches the door. She turns the lock, and even before the door is flung open we can hear her greetings of "oy, mein lieber kind" (my beloved children). We're smiling before we even enter her apartment.

The children are already at home She insists we leave our muddy boots on, worried that the floor is too cold for the children's feet, and douses them in kisses and hugs. I pull their shoes off despite her protests, knowing that the floors have been freshly washed with boiling water. The children are already at home, exploring the owl shaped lamp she lights to commemorate the yahrtzeits of her father and mother, her grandparents and her husband.

My son uses her old-fashioned key to open and close her cupboards, and she is happy to let him. My baby daughter climbs up onto her couch, sits for a moment, then climbs down and finds another one to try out. She examines the children, comments on their growth, tells me what to feed them and when, and sighs.

"Ah, a yiddisher kind," (A Jewish child!) she exclaims, "Ah, a yiddisher kind."

Almost every Friday, Sophia calls. She is already ready for Shabbat. I, of course, am in the midst of a whirlwind of preparations, racing against the clock before the guests arrive. Her call makes me pause for a moment, smile, and speak as loudly and clearly as I possibly can into the phone. "A Gutten Shabbos (a good Shabbat)," she wishes me, and asks about us and the children. I assure her that we are all doing well, and ask how she is feeling. "Not important," she responds, and goes onto the next subject. Her house is spotless, and despite the fact that her arthritis makes walking extremely difficult, so much so she has not left her apartment in years, she does much of the cleaning herself. But she tells me that she has already stopped working, because soon it will be Shabbat.

Every visit and phone call, we are blessed with another little glimpse into a world that is long gone.

A mother and aunt, so well respected in the community that they were given the seats of honor in the front row of the ladies' gallery in the synagogue. The mother and aunt are long gone and so is the beautiful sanctuary they sat in, demolished by a German bomb in 1942... A young father murdered during the revolution, leaving a fourteen-month-old little boy and a young wife. Twins, born two months after their father's death, the boy named "Chaim" for his father. A kind Jewish family that would bring freshly slaughtered kosher chickens to the widowed mother before Jewish holidays… A grandfather that blessed each of his grandchildren on his deathbed, and made them promise one thing- that they live Jewish lives…

Sophia tells us about her niece, who is a pediatrician in S. Petersburg. "Raya says you must feed your baby red meat," she tells me. She finds a coat from her niece and asks me to try it on for size. Her younger brother lives in another city, and her nieces lived in her home while they studied in the university. "G‑d never gave me children," she sighs, "I am so nervous. And look, G‑d saw and He didn't give me children."

Her friends visit often She is old, and she is alone, although her elderly brother lives nearby and she does his laundry for him by hand. But her friends call her on the phone, and visit often. Young people, old people, women she worked with in the factory many years ago. It's not difficult to visit Sophia.

She is the most optimistic person I know. She is realistic, and in constant pain from her arthritis. She knows that so many of her dreams are lost- her husband who is gone, the children she wanted but never had, and the promises made to her grandfather still hanging in the air. Yet she is happy. She still has energy left for living. And you leave her energized and a little happier every time you visit her. And you will always be greeted by a ringing phone when you arrive home five minutes later, making sure you made it back without any trouble.

Her face lights up when she talks about her Jewish past Sophia remembers all the Jewish holidays from her youth. Her brother participates in the synagogue, and calls her to let her in on the latest news and happenings. In a neat pile on her makeshift table are Jewish newspapers from ten, twenty, even thirty years ago. She is one of the only people I know in this city who still remembers Yiddish words from her youth.

We see her face light up when she talks about her Jewish past, and we are eager to know all the details. If she doesn't tell us, who will? She never had children, and although her brothers have children and grandchildren, they are not Jewish. She and her brothers are the last link to a rich and beautiful past, deeply connected to the Jewish roots of many of the members of our community.

I look at our friendship with Sofia as a precious gift, and treasure the warmth and love she showers upon our family. I love to send over our visitors to meet her, to hear the joy in her voice when she says: "There are Jews in my house!" Her life is a closed history book: full of joy and sadness, hope and loss; testimony that when there is hope, there is life. I look at the faces of the Jewish children I have come to know here in this city, and I see Sophia's face, and promise to do what I can, so that they never know the feeling of being the last one left.