on brona

Somehow I can't quite believe that we received this in the mail yesterday.


I think my favourite thing about it is the image of the fork and knife delicately nestled in a napkin. Don't worry, the image says. They'll use cutlery.

I couldn't wait to tear it open. Awesome, I thought. I bet I can adopt an elderly Jew. They'll send me photos, letters filled with gratitude, the works. Dearest Palinode, my name is Lydia Edelstein and I'm downright peckish.

But the laughter dried (not died) in my throat when I opened the letter and met Brona.


Brona is holding a photo of what is presumably herself from bygone days. Why she's doing that, we don't know. Is she wanting to show that she was young once, and therefore deserves food now? Does she think that this will provide legitimacy to her twin claims of being Jewish and starving? I could hold up a photo of myself from 1975 but it would not make me any hungrier or more Jewish. It would only make me weirder.

Brona appended a brief note to the top of the letter.


So now we know a few things about Brona: 1) She gets off on spying on the elderly; 2) she imagines a benevolent force of "overseas strangers" helping her out in some way, perhaps by forcing the grandmas and grandpas to eat from garbage bins; 3) Despite living in Achinsk, Russia, where (according to the letter) she watches TV and sings the Yiddish songs of her childhood to pass the time, she is fluent in a particular idiom of English that talks about garbage bins and grandmas; and 4) her penmanship is inhumanly precise and regular.

So: starving Russian Jewish woman? Or paranoid gerontophilic photo-holding graphomaniacal polyglot? I leave it for you to decide.