Paul Gidaly is 96 and a Holocaust survivor.
And he only wants one thing in his remaining years: to live in Canada near his daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.
On Aug. 26, Federation Housing, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, made Gidaly’s wish its command.
The organization orchestrated the survivor’s move to Calgary, near Canada’s west coast.
The next day, Michele Naftulin, the property manager with Federation Housing, called Canyon Meadows, Gidaly’s new apartment complex.
“They said he’s already whizzing around on a scooter,” she said.
Gidaly is happy to be there, but it’s not exactly heaven — he is still estranged from his daughter. And while his hope is to reconcile, there’s no guarantee that will happen.
But trying is better than staying in his lonely, isolated situation in Philadelphia.
When the pandemic hit, Gidaly was living alone in a Federation Housing-managed apartment building, Center Park III, on Red Lion Road. He had lived there since 2005, and, in recent years, many of his original friends either died or moved out.
Gidaly told Naftulin he had a hole in his heart. He also told Federation Housing about his Calgary wish.
The widower knew about Canyon Meadows from a trip to Canada two years ago. After Canada lifted its COVID travel restrictions in July, Federation Housing worked with Gidaly to buy a plane ticket, sign a lease and ship 18 UPS boxes containing all his possessions.
Gidaly, who was already vaccinated, was able to travel after taking a COVID test.
Even though Federation Housing will no longer watch over Gidaly in Canada, he will receive $500 a month toward rent from the Franklin B. Haaz Holocaust Rental Assistance Program.
“I look forward to being near family. I am excited to make new friendships,” Gidaly said. “The pandemic made me feel so isolated.”
He hopes the move is the end of a long journey.
Gidaly was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1925. After losing his father in the Holocaust, Gidaly immigrated to Canada with his mother and sister.
He married during his initial stay there, and the couple had a daughter. Later they divorced, and Gidaly met his second wife, Eva, in Israel.
Eventually, they relocated to Philadelphia, where they lived out the rest of their years together. After Eva died, Gidaly moved into Center Park III, an affordable housing community for seniors.
Federation Housing, which is subsidized by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, manages 1,500 residents across 11 properties, according to Alyssa Moss, the Federation Housing social services manager.
“We like to listen to residents and respond to their needs,” Moss said.
With Gidaly, organization employees didn’t just listen. They went above and beyond.
“I am extremely grateful for Federation’s assistance throughout the entire process,” Gidaly said. “Including planning, organizing and financing my final wish.”
The survivor has lived in six countries: Hungary, Canada, Israel, the U.S., Austria and England. He is also an active traveler who knows six languages: German, English, Hebrew, French, Italian and Latin.
But he wanted to settle down in Calgary as early as the spring of 2020. Gidaly even tried to get a flight out, but then COVID hit.
And once he was finally able to book a flight, the accountant by trade was organized and ready; his passport and identification cards were all current.
“He was on the ball,” Naftulin said. “I admired his determination to get out there, and he made it.”