Olga Ruber, 102, fled Fascists and found safety in the Village


By Albert Amateau

Olga Barbara Ruber, who came to the Village in 1945 with her children after a remarkable odyssey across four continents during World War II, died peacefully in her apartment at the corner of Christopher and Bleecker Sts. on Jan. 5. She would have been 103 on Feb. 1.

She worked for many years at the Midtown shop of J. Berlé, the custom corset maker, until she retired at the age of 75, then worked as a volunteer at St. Vincent’s Hospital until she was 92. She spoke five languages, loved dancing, going to concerts and dining out.

“I first met Olga in 2000 when she was 95 and still going to the hairdressers once a week,” said Mary Ann Arisman, a volunteer with Visiting Neighbors.

“Her eyesight was failing and she was more comfortable going out with some help, so I would visit her every Wednesday,” Arisman said. “She enjoyed going to the gardens at the Jefferson Market Library and St. Luke’s on Hudson St. We’d sometimes stop by St. Vincent’s, where the staff and volunteers she’d known during her 19 years as a volunteer would greet her.

“Our weekly visits enriched my life,” Arisman continued. “Over the years, she shared with me the amazing story of her travels from Romania during World War II as a widow with two daughters.”

Olga Goldstein was born in Botosani, Romania, on Feb. 1, 1905, one of six children raised in a family of means. She married Arthur Ruber, of Bucharest, when she was 18. The couple had three children, two daughters and a son who died in infancy. Her husband died suddenly of diphtheria in 1934 and her extended family began making plans to leave as Fascists came to power and brought violence to Romania.

“Her story of having to identify the bodies of neighbors who were university professors and journalists who had been taken from their homes by Fascists and strung up in a local meat market made an indelible impression on me,” said her grandson Arthur Miller. Olga’s cousin Eugen Weber, who became a prominent professor of French history, fled to England.

In 1941, Olga fled Romania with her daughters, Miorica and Nadia, and began a journey that took them to Turkey, Baghdad, Bombay, India and Capetown, South Africa, and a four-year sojourn in Havana before landing in the United States and Greenwich Village.

“Olga was a model of how to age with grace and dignity,” said Arisman. “Everyone at Visiting Neighbors — staff, student interns and volunteers — loved and admired her for her independent spirit.”

Her two daughters, Miorica Demlin and Nadia Miller, two grandsons, Arthur and Richard Miller, and four great-grandchildren survive.