Back in 2016 Roman Blank made a life-changing revelation to his family. The great-grandfather, who was 95 years old at the time, summoned up the courage to come out as gay. And off the back of that incredible moment, Roman then shared a heartbreaking confession in an interview on YouTube the following year.
A resident of Beverly Hills, California, Roman lives in a nursing home apartment with his wife Ruth Blank. The pair have known each other for decades now – coming together after World War II ended. They originally hailed from the same area of Poland prior to the conflict and had reunited in Germany.
Roman and Ruth eventually moved to the United States to start a new life together. The couple then went on to welcome two daughters into the world, who they named Susan and Lili. And alongside that, they now have five grandkids and a great-grandchild.
However, Roman was harboring a massive secret over the course of those years. And after coming out, Ruth’s husband subsequently sat down for an interview on a YouTube channel, where he shared a bit more of his story. But he also raised a rather sad point during the talk as well.
We’ll return to Roman’s chat about coming out a little later, but first let’s explore the major event which shaped his life early on – World War II. The conflict began in 1939 after Nazi Germany invaded Poland – causing Britain and France to declare war on the former country. Subsequently, an alliance of countries banded together to take on Germany and its Axis allies.
In the end, the Nazis were eventually defeated in May 1945, but they’d already caused untold damage across Europe. And sadly, Roman and Ruth saw that horror firsthand, as we’re about to discover.
As we previously mentioned, Roman and Ruth lived fairly close to each other in Poland before the war began. Their families hailed from nearby towns – with the former growing up alongside three siblings. As for his future wife, she had a brother and two sisters, but the similarities didn’t end there.
For you see, during Roman’s youth, his dad passed away. The same thing also happened to Ruth too, and it left her family in a very difficult financial position. Unfortunately for them, they became penniless after her father’s death, and the problems would only get worse when the war started in 1939.
It wasn’t just Germany which invaded Poland, the Soviet Union also attacked the country from the east. As a result, Ruth’s clan soon found themselves in a work camp in Siberia. Roman, meanwhile, was able to escape his home country with his brother – but they faced a heartbreaking decision. After receiving Russian visas, the siblings were forced to abandon their mom and sisters.
Thankfully for Ruth and her family, they weren’t sent to any of the concentration camps over the course of the war. So they eventually went back to Poland when the conflict ended, as did Roman. However, he was hit with some devastating news upon his return to the country of his birth.
In a tragic turn of events, Roman discovered that his mom and sisters had been killed. Although the timing of their deaths couldn’t be confirmed, it’s believed that it might’ve happened at two different points. The first suggestion was that the women were murdered before being sent to one of the concentration camps.
As for the second suggestion, it was claimed that Roman’s family could’ve died after leaving a camp. When the war ended, a number of anti-Semitic revolts known as pogroms took place in Poland – leading to a large number of deaths. And given their Jewish heritage, the women might have been caught up in that.
Despite everything that Ruth and Roman went through in the conflict, though, the challenges didn’t stop there. To make matters even worse for them, they lost their respective houses as a result of the war too. The pair then ended up in different “displaced-persons camps” in Germany, ahead of their unlikely reconnection.
Roman was informed that Ruth was still alive, so he decided to send a message to her camp. By that point, the former was already aware of his sexual orientation, but that didn’t stop him from popping the question to his future wife.
Looking back on that period, Ruth shared some more details during a filmed interview her family recorded in 2016. She said, “[Roman] was so happy that he found me. He asked my mom to give me permission to marry him. And so it was in January [of 1948], very cold in Germany, we married.”
Yet from Roman’s perspective, this wasn’t a normal situation. Due to the views in society back then, he couldn’t live out in the open as a gay man – so he made a difficult choice. The great-grandfather told Out magazine in January 2017, “In the camp where I was living at that time, there was a girl that I knew from my hometown.”
Roman continued, “[The girl] said to me, ‘Do you know Ruth is looking for you?’ I sent a telegram, telling her I was coming. That was the biggest mistake I made in my life at that time. But I had no choice. That was the way the world dictated: either you live or you die.”
Roman then touched upon the early days of his relationship with Ruth. He explained, “This was against my better belief, against my nature. Why? I don’t understand it. But that was the urge to live. And of course, very shortly after that, we decided to get married.”
Roman subsequently admitted that he resented Ruth for being straight for some time. He said, “I hated the way she was born normal. I hated normal people, like they hated us.” Yet if you take a closer look at that period, his anger stemmed from a very justifiable place.
As World War II progressed, the Germans brought forward a law called Paragraph 175. This piece of legislation subsequently made homosexuality a crime in its conquered lands – leading to the arrest of around 100,000 individuals. And up to 15,000 of those men ended up in concentration camps in the following years.
However, that didn’t stop Roman from experiencing his first sexual encounter while living in Poland as a young man. He then later formed a secret relationship with a next-door neighbor during his stint in Russia. But sadly for the two men, it all ended in tears.
Roman told the publication, “I knock on the wall, he knocks, I knock back, he came in. I loved him so much. The son-of-a-b**** [government] took him away [to the army]. In the war, he probably got killed. You never can imagine such a sweet face, such a sweet body.”
Some years later, Roman and Ruth’s wedding went ahead and the two subsequently left Europe once and for all. The couple packed their bags for Brooklyn, New York, where they welcomed their two daughters Lili and Susan into the world. As a result of that, the kids’ mom stayed at home to look after them, while their dad plied his trade as a jeweler.
Yet everything changed in 1953. Prior to that, Roman had embarked on a number of affairs in the city. To maintain the secret, he told her that he was visiting a local bathhouse – but his wife caught him out one night. She contacted the aforementioned facility to check on him and discovered that he wasn’t there.
Ruth subsequently approached Roman when he returned home, looking for an answer. He revealed to Out, “Of course I told her [that I was gay]. What else could I do? She made up her mind, she had no choice, because the kids were number one. She kept it together.”
“I was brokenhearted all those years,” Ruth admitted during her video interview. “I sacrificed my life for my children. I had the children, I want them to have a father, we stuck together. Now at this point, we are 96, we love each other, [we have lived] together [for] 65 years – 65 years [I’ve lived] like that.”
Ruth and Roman then went on to live with the latter’s secret for the next six decades – with their family none the wiser. Yet it didn’t prove to be easy for his wife, as she went on to explain. In the recorded family video, she said, “It came to the point [where] we should have split.”
Ruth added, “We [went] through life the best we could, we love each other – I’m not talking sexually. [We] love each other like sister and brother. But I suffered plenty. I was a young woman, you know?” In the end, Roman’s partner couldn’t contain the secret forever – leading to a pivotal moment in their lives.
During a therapy session, Ruth finally told someone else about Roman’s sexuality. Then, following the appointment, she shared the truth with her oldest daughter as well. So with everything out in the open, the former jeweler confirmed that he was indeed gay and had been for the vast majority of his life.
Reflecting on Roman’s announcement, his younger child Lili told Out, “The news definitely changed my relationship with my father. In that I wanted to know everything about him now. I wanted to know the father that he hid from us. I loved so much that he didn’t take this secret to his grave.”
Unsurprisingly, Roman’s family were initially shell-shocked by the revelation – but they soon accepted it. Following that, the great-grandfather then decided to share his secret with the world via a YouTube interview in March 2017. And that wasn’t the only thing that he wanted to get off his chest at the time.
Talking with YouTuber Davey Wavey, Roman says, “[I knew I was gay] when I was five years old. I just told [my family] plain that I was born and was all my life gay. I told them the whole tragedy of my life, and then they understood what happened to me.”
Roman continues, “Because just to say, ‘I’m gay’ – blah! That’s ridiculous! Why? Where? What? Can you imagine, 90 years [being in] in the closet?” At this stage, Ruth’s husband is asked by Davey if he wants a boyfriend, to which he responds with a coy smile, “Yes.”
Roman then expands on this confession, talking about what he looks for in a partner. As it turns out, physical appearances don’t really play a part. He admits, “I don’t look at the face. I look at the heart.” After this, the nonagenarian makes one final point on the matter.
Roman adds, “I’ll be very honest about it. I really don’t need any physical or mental connections. I don’t need [them]. But I want to… I want to go to sleep and have somebody close to me. Not for any other reason, but to be sure that someone cares. You know? That’s all.”
The emotional interview with YouTuber Davey Wavey then comes to a close. And since being posted on YouTube in March 2017, it’s earned over 563,000 views and more than 6,000 likes. In addition to that, the video has also generated in excess of 600 comments from online users – most of whom offered their support to Roman.
Roman continues to live with Ruth in their Beverly Hills apartment – despite his aforementioned desire to find a boyfriend. As such, the latter received plenty of emotional support during that period as well, and his daughter Susan made a rather frank confession. According to her, she now saw her mom in a very different light.
Apparently, when Susan was growing up back in the 1970s, she believed that Ruth was “weak” and “needy” at home. Yet thanks to Roman’s confession, she was able to reassess her feelings from that time – hailing her mom as a “strong” woman. Furthermore, her dad had some kind words of his own for his wife.
“I love [Ruth] as a person,” Roman told Out. “That’s something different. I feel she is the most wonderful person in the world, her nature, her behavior, her love, everything. I can’t picture any woman going through what she went through and going on [with her life].”
Roman concluded, “[Ruth] suffered, and she still suffers, to this day. But she’s so much in love with me, no matter what I would do, you know? I never saw anything like it in my whole life. I don’t know of anybody like that. This is what hurts so deep. Why live like that? Would you live like that? No, nobody would.”