My father was born in Bauer, Russia. As a youngster he and his brother Phillip had diphtheria. They survived. In later years, each time my father smelled creosote, it brought back memories of his throat being swabbed in Russia. His sister Natalie, in a later bout, did not survive. She had been taken to a neighboring town to get her throat lanced. That evening at the dinner table, as she sat on my grandfather’s lap, she said, “I don’t want to die,” then died shortly after.
My grandfather was so grateful when he could vaccinate his children. He was one of the first in his village to do so. The only other child to die from an epidemic in the family was a niece of my father’s who died of flu in 1918. Knowing this family history makes me one of the “first in line.”