by Terry Rogers
Ellan Levitsky, who served as an Army nurse with the 164th General Hospital during World War II plans to travel to Normandy from June 2 through 11 for the first time without her sister, Dorothy who served with her at the hospital. Levitsky and her sister traveled to Normandy together every year starting in 2004 after they both became widows. This will be Levitsky’s first trip to the area without her sister.
“Dorothy died two years ago and this will be the first time traveling there without her,” Levitsky said. “I am calling this my last hurrah since I am 99 years old. This is the 75th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy and I just felt like it was something I had to do, something is telling me I need to go.”
Levitsky says that the trip will not be a time for relaxation as the group she will travel with has events and activities planned each day. The will travel to different villages for services and will attend a luncheon at City Hall where the hospital Levitsky and her sister worked.
“There is a monument there where the hospital was,” Levitsky said. “The monument is dedicated to Dottie and I which is wonderful. We will also attend a Catholic Mass in a beautiful church there. It’s a really nice place for a nice Jewish girl. We will leave the hotel around 9 AM, return for lunch and then head out again, not returning until 4 PM.”
Levitsky will travel with her aide as she is wheelchair bound. She explained that her aide’s father was in the military and is familiar with the area so it will make it easier to get around. Over the years, Levitsky and her sister made many friends who will be joining her on this trip and she is looking forward to seeing them again.
“They are all calling me and telling me how happy they are I am coming,” Levitsky said. “One friend I met there sends me Teddy bears because he knows I love them, so I plan to take him one when we go. I am looking forward to visiting the hospital and seeing the area again. I am sure I will do a lot of bawling because this is the first trip that Dottie won’t be with me. It will be bittersweet being there without her.”
The Levitsky sisters were raised in New Jersey and were working in hospitals in Philadelphia as nurses when World War II broke out. Ellan knew that she needed to join the war effort and that if she signed up, her sister would sign up as well because the two had been inseparable their entire lives. When Dorothy enlisted, her only request was that the two sisters remain together. On September 11, 1944, the two sisters boarded the HMS Cynthia, headed for Normandy, France.
During the war, Ellan applied anesthesia while Dorothy worked as a staff nurse in the hospital wards. Ellan recalled that the men they treated were sometimes as young as 18 and many of them did not survive. The sisters most notably served in the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944, a battle considered the last major offensive by the German army. In October 2012, both Ellan and Dorothy received the French Legion of Honor Award at the French Embassy in Washington DC for their service during the war.
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