When 14-year-old Basti Williams struck up a conversation with Hildegard in German, their unlikely friendship bloomed.
Sometimes, friendships are formed in the most unlikely places. When Basti Williams, an eighth-grader studying at the Allen-Stevenson School in New York City, made a visit to the Upper East Side Rehabilitation and Nursing Center last year, he had no idea he would make a new best friend. He visited the nursing home in the fall of 2019 and got to talking with Hildegard, a 94-year-old grandma from Germany. They spent hours talking to each other. Since then, 14-year-old Basti has made several visits to the rehabilitation center with his family, Fox News reports. The formidable duo even celebrated her 94th birthday together.
According to the caretakers at Upper East Side, Hildegard mostly kept to herself and did not really interact much with the other seniors in the care home. Even when Basti visited the home with some of his classmates from school, she was seen slouching in her wheelchair and staring at a newspaper instead of interacting with the children. However, Basti introduced himself anyway. The first time around, she didn't respond. The staff informed him that she wasn't the communicative kind - but they also told him her name. When the 14-year-old recognized that her name was of German descent, he decided to try again. Only this time, in German, a language he is fluent in.
Immediately, the woman's face lit up. She couldn't believe someone was talking to her in German. From then onwards, the pair couldn't stop talking. They spent hours conversing with each other, and as time went by, Hildegard began opening up to the young boy like never before. She shared stories from her childhood and about what it was like to grow up in a Catholic household on the border of Poland and Czechoslovakia during the Second World War. That's when Basti and his classmates realized she had survived the Holocaust; Hildegard explained the fear she experienced as a little girl during the Holocaust, telling the group about how her mother would not let her go out and play because her family was so scared of that man. Finally, she told them about how her experiences have shown her that the most important thing to give to this world is love.
Basti was incredibly moved by the conversation he had with her. "I froze, lots of emotions hit me at the same time, the look in her eyes filled with so much pain and sadness, bringing tears to my eyes," he said. "I started having flashbacks of what we learned during history class. And here I was, finding myself speaking to someone who lived through it all." Ever since that first meeting, Basti has returned to the nursing home numerous times to visit Hildegard. She has now become a part of his family. Earlier this week, they celebrated Hildegard's birthday together with a cake and balloons. She, too, has been thankful for their friendship. "I was deeply touched when Basti’s family baked German pastries and came to visit me," she shared. "It felt like long-distance family visiting: we shared baked goods and laughs. I don’t have many visitors and no family members left... What they have been doing for me and other residents is very nice and heartwarming." Their story just goes to show that friendships can be formed between the unlikeliest of people.