SYDNEY (JTA) — A Philippines woman who has looked after a 103-year-old Holocaust survivor in Sydney for eight years can return home to celebrate her daughter’s 18th birthday and then return to her job in Australia.
Lenie Fernandez was off to Manila on Friday after being granted a special visa from the Australian government the previous day.
Fernandez has not seen her daughter for nine years; her daughter had pleaded with her to come home for the birthday celebration.
Fernandez had been on a tourist visa when she became the at-home caretaker for Richard Roberts in suburban Vaucluse. If she left Australia on her existing visa, she would not have been allowed reentry to continue caring for the Vienna-born Roberts, who survived Dachau and Buchenwald before migrating to Australia.
She appealed to the authorities to allow her to leave Australia to return to the Philippines.
Fernandez was told she could apply for a new visa, but would have to wait for up to a year, during which she could continue caring for Roberts but not leave the country.
Roberts’ home lies within the district of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who wrote a letter on Fernandez’s behalf in 2010 when he was in the opposition. Turnbull was made aware of the current situation.
Support for Fernandez’s case was helped by media reports and an online petition.
On Thursday, Fernandez rushed to the Department of Immigration offices in another Sydney suburb, Parramatta, with her attorney and was granted the special visa.
“We can confirm that the visa has been issued but can comment no further,” a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told JTA.
A family friend told J-Wire, an online Jewish newspaper serving Australia and New Zealand, that Roberts was extremely happy but still apprehensive about two weeks without his caregiver.
Before she left, Fernandez organized two caregivers to look after Roberts in her absence. She will return during the second week of May.
Roberts told JTA: “She ran the house, including bringing people in to help, some of whom shopped for the household.”