• Assisting a community member in Belaya Tserkov
SOS Ukraine

“Then I’m Not Feeling Alone Anymore”

Anemone Rüger - 14 June 2022

“We are operational again,” says Vera, our contact person in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernigov. “But 70 per cent of our beautiful city has been destroyed.” The medieval churches of Chernigov – the former capital of an independent principality – are considered world heritage. Vera spent several weeks in March in the basement of her apartment block, trying to organise medication for her most needy patients via the Red Cross. When Chernigov’s main bridge to the Kiev district was destroyed, Vera sent a message saying, “We are preparing for the worst.” For a long time, the population was cut off from any supplies. In early April, the siege around the city miraculously ended. Vera is able to go shopping again for her senior community members from the donations provided by Christians for Israel.

Ludmilla: ‘I wrap myself in the blanket you brought me every day, and then I’m not feeling alone anymore.’

“You know, it’s very difficult. Every air-raid alarm frightens me,” says Ludmila (pictured left), who lives in Chernivtsy. She turned blind many years ago and shares an apartment with her daughter. Since German Telekom started offering free calls to Ukraine, I have tried to call some of the elderly every day. “If my daughter would go with me, I would also leave,” Ludmila continues. Her granddaughter has already escaped to Germany with her 1-year-old daughter. “I miss you; I miss your visits… Do you remember that you brought me a blanket once, knitted by a certain Frau Huber from Germany? Tell her how much it means to me now. I wrap myself in this blanket every day, and then I’m not feeling alone anymore.”

Together with my colleague Alina, I have been able to bring hundreds of hand-knitted blankets, shawls and socks to Holocaust survivors and needy elderly in Ukraine’s Jewish communities over the last few years. We gave out thousands of small cards, speaking words of comfort into people’s hearts: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you.” The cards, the shawls, and the heart- shaped waffles have deposited a seed of love in the hearts of the needy. The memories of our visits are releasing hope at a time when we have hardly any opportunity to reach these dear people physically and geographically.

“For the elderly, it is incredibly difficult to leave their old lives behind,” says one of the Jewish leaders on the Black Sea coast. “Many of them just only made it through the past years thanks to the loving care of their nurses and lots of medication. They don’t have the strength to pack and leave. They would rather die in their own bed than having to flee again. That’s why we try to continue supporting them through our staff who remained in the city. Thank you for helping us in this effort.”

Another Jewish community actively engaged in helping the needy is located in Poltava between Kiev and Kharkov. “It took a long time, but now I was able to place another bulk order with our contract pharmacy (pictured below) for the elderly who need medical support in our community,” says Rabbi Yosef. In addition to its own needy, the Jewish community has taken in countless refugees from severely destroyed cities such as Kharkov. “Thanks to your help, we have been able to provide each family – community members and refugees alike – with a nice Passover package (pictured above right).”

“Our seniors are very strong. I almost get the impression they take this situation better than we do,” says Tanya from Belaya Tserkov, who had to abandon her home near the airbase during the air raids at the beginning of the war. “Last night, the sirens went off again and lasted for an hour. I couldn’t sleep after that. Our city is more or less ok at the moment. But we are getting more and more refugees from the east – from Lugansk, from Mariupol. What they report is simply horrible.”

Tanya and her team go out of their way to provide for the many elderly in their large area of responsibility, which also includes many outlying villages. “We realise that they need us. They depend on the aid we bring. But it’s still scary to go outside. Whenever we plan a larger tour, we try to get a police escort.” All the community’s needy continue to be cared for. Their helpers are so committed to them that they are willing to risk their lives for it.

“At the same time, the Aliyah continues,” says Tanya. “We are sending everyone who is halfway mobile and ready to go to Israel to you. And those who took this big step are very happy. Thank you for everything you do for us!”

“Dear sponsors – your donations continue to reach the elderly, and they are needed more than ever – materially and emotionally! So far, we have been able to continue our support programmes in all our Jewish partner communities, although under more difficult conditions. The message this conveys – that someone is thinking of them and caring for them – is invaluable for the needy at this challenging time. THANK YOU!”



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