LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Rose Borusovic was born during World War I in Czechoslovakia and moved to the U.S. in 1939, a year when the World’s Fair opened in New York and Adolf Hitler invaded her homeland.
On Wednesday, she turned 107, the oldest resident ever to walk the halls of Grand Villa of Lakeland, an assisted-living facility on Lakeland Hills Boulevard next to Tigertown.
“We are honored to have Rose as one of our treasured residents,” said executive director Tyrus Hawkins. According to Grand Villa staff, Borusovic’s secret to a long life is to “eat well.” Her favorite pastimes are crocheting and listening to music.
Grand Villa staff declined an interview with Borusovic, saying she has difficulty speaking and hearing. But Sandra Senka, a friend of Borusovic’s since 1968 who lives in New York, talked with The Ledger about Borusovic’s life.
Borusovic was born on May 18, 1915, and made the journey to the U.S. in her mid-20s.
“I think everybody back then thought the U.S. roads were paved in gold and they just wanted a better life. It was tough over in Europe at that time,” Senka said.
“I couldn’t pack up my stuff at 20-something years old and go over to another country where I couldn’t speak the language,” Senka said.
She said Borusovic had a sponsor in the Midwest, either in Michigan or Wisconsin.
“She went out there, and then she got a letter from somebody she knew about ‘there were a lot of jobs in New York City. Why don’t you come here?’” Senka said.
New York City is where Borusovic met her husband, Steve. Borusovic was employed by a family as a housekeeper and babysitter, and Steve was an apartment super.
“I think they met at a Slovak dance club. They loved to polka and they loved to dance,” Senka said.
Senka’s mother-in-law was also from Czechoslovakia and friends with Borusovic. The friends met after they both arrived in New York City. Borusovic loved to cook and would often have the Senka family over for dinner.
“My husband’s mother asked him years ago, if anything happened to Rose’s husband, would we look out for her,” Senka said. Senka said her husband, John, visited the Borusovics often.
The Borusovics never had children but had family in Czechoslovakia. The pair moved to Lakeland when Steve retired at the age of 65. He died in 2004 at the age of 98, Senka said, leaving Borusovic a widow at the age of 89.
According to Senka, Borusovic was able to stay at home with home health care until she was 103.
“She was a very nice, thoughtful lady, but she could be a little feisty if she needed to be,” Senka said.