Our neighbor Oleg

How many people do we walk by day in and day out without ever knowing anything about them?

If we pay attention we will come to recognize some of them. We may even exchange a smile and a good day, but we don’t really know anything about them.

That’s what happened with Oleg, the tall blond man that lived in a tent at the foot of my building. Until one day the tent was gone…

It’s 11 in the morning as I find myself standing with about 20 others around the tree at the corner of my street. The place where the tent used to be, but where pictures, flowers and candles now remind us.

I don’t know anyone of the people I’m standing with, yet we’re all connected in this very moment. Simply because we’re all here for the same reason, to say goodbye to Oleg.

When the tent was first gone, at the end of December, I hoped with all of my heart that Oleg had found a better place to live. This is a sentiment I hear echoed from the people that surround me. We all hoped…

But unfortunately, Oleg died in a Paris hospital at the end of January.

He’ll be missed, because Oleg was more than just the homeless man that lived in our neighborhood for the past 8 years.

The words that I hear being used to describe Oleg this morning are kind, friendly, a lover of books, a beautiful smile, graceful….

And graceful he was. Before fleeing the political regime of his home country Oleg was a ballet dancer at the opera.

Despite his success he fled his country to live a life of freedom.

In my eyes his choice for freedom is perfectly displayed in the way he took responsibility for his life. He made the best of it with all he had.

And with his life he changed a neighborhood. He touched us all and leaves an empty spot in our hearts and on the corner of our street.

Thank you Oleg… Farewell!


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