Generations: Eliana Duncan

Eliana Duncan’s striking face lights up as she describes her journey from Rumania to Chicago in 1974, with her husband xxxxxxx, daughter Florica, and son-in-law.  They followed in the footsteps of Eliana’s son, Sherban, who escaped to Italy in the trunk of a car while on a school excursion in Yugoslavia in 1968.  A cousin then sponsored him to emigrate here, where he became a U.S. citizen and later was joined by the rest of the family.

Eliana worked for a time in a Chicago museum, where she prepared documentation on artworks, followed by a stint as a saleswoman at Marshall Field’s, but it was her husband’s career as a concrete engineer that brought them to the Bay Area, and a home in Sausalito, in 1980.  They joined Rodef Sholom and the JCC soon after their arrival.  Following a massive stroke in 1982, xxxxxxx began working out in the JCC therapy pool with our own Michael Kamler, who was a swimming instructor there.  Eliana credits Michael for playing a role in her husband’s remarkable recovery from his ordeal.

Eliana lovingly describes her parents as her role models for living a Jewish life.  While not deeply religious, they kept all the practices and traditions that she continues to follow today, lighting Shabbat candles, celebrating the high holy days, and observing yahrzeits at the synagogue. 

She remembers how her mother observed an old tzedakah tradition:  She would buy a young chicken and take it to a kosher butcher to have it ritually prepared for cooking.  She would bring it home and swing it over her children’s heads while saying a prayer.  Only then could the chicken be delivered to a poor family.  (All of this had to be done in the greatest secrecy, as Rumania was under Communist rule at the time.)

Over her lifetime, Eliana says that her most important lessons were imparted to her by her parents.  Her mother, whom she describes as her ‘best friend’, taught her to respect everyone, no matter their race, religion, or traditions.  Her father emphasized the importance of paying one’s dues in the world. “No-one is obligated to you; you must find the moment to win them over.” 

Eliana loves to read, but ‘only good writing’.  She enjoys watching classic movies (sometimes multiple times), and sitting by the Sausalito waterfront, observing the activity on the Bay and enjoying the beautiful views