• - Vladimir was the one who defended Anna against antisemitic hatred at school. Even then, the two knew they were getting married . | Photos: Christians for Israel
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Love in Times of Darkness

Anemone Rüger - 24 June 2024

Anna is one of the 1,500 first- and second-generation Holocaust survivors in Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova who are supported by Christians for Israel. Regular aid is provided through the local Jewish communities. With each aid package, the Jewish seniors receive a letter with words of solidarity and encouragement from God’s word, and our employees visit them as often as possible. Some tragic personal histories unfold in stages—and sometimes take an unexpected turn.

“We got your letter together with the food parcel,” says Anna as we sit down with her. “I’ve read it so many times… like a prayer!”

Anna lives in a small village with her husband Vladimir in the north of Moldova. The young people have moved away, the middle generation is working abroad—there is hardly any work in this picture-book countryside. Many of the smaller villages look like open-air museums. Anna and Vladimir made their little corner of the world beautiful—tulips and forsythia bloom in their garden.

Many Moldovan villages resemble open-air museums: picturesque but deserted.

Fertile Land—Scorched Earth
“My father, Ilya, grew up here in this village,” says Anna. “Grandpa was a grain merchant. Many Jews lived here before the war, around 50 families. They worked in agriculture or on the local dairy farm; the women made embroidery.”

The fertile black earth soil has always been Moldova’s treasure. After the devastating pogrom of Kishinau in 1903, the Zionist movement gained many supporters here in historic Bessarabia. Jewish agricultural settlements sprouted up everywhere—the forerunners of the kibbutzim.

“When the war started, Dad had to go to the front,” Anna continues. “When he came back, none of his family was alive. His father, his mother, his brother Avram and his sister Miriam, who had just got married—all murdered. We don’t even know exactly where the execution site was. Other Jews from the village were drowned in the well or buried alive.”

Anna’s parents. When Anna’s father returned from the front to his hometown, where Anna now lives, none of his family were still alive. All the Jews in the village had been killed.

Antisemitism in a Village Without Jews
After the war, there were hardly any Jews left in the village. And yet antisemitism was a reality that accompanied Anna throughout her childhood. “I was constantly called ‘Zhidovka’—the offensive word for ‘Jew’. We had a hard time at school, my brother and me. But Vladimir defended me. He still looks after me today.”

While Anna fetches the hot water—and all sorts of delicious things that she has prepared for her guests—we take the opportunity to find out a little more from Vladimir.

“Our families were neighbours, we have known each other since we were children,” says Vladimir. “Most of the Jews from our village had been murdered in the war. When we started school, Anna was the only Jewish girl in the class. The kids were constantly calling her names and teasing her as Jew. I defended her. I beat up everyone who attacked her.”

“I’m not so fit now, but back then, when I was young—they all respected me!” he adds with a mischievous laugh.

Carried on Hands
Halfway through school time they realised they would be in love for life. “We were in sixth or seventh grade when we knew we would get married,” says Vladimir. “Anna then changed schools. There were no paved roads in our village. The last stretch of road before school always turned into a pool of mud when it rained. When the weather was bad, I got up early in the morning and took Anna to school. I always carried her the last stretch through the mud so she wouldn’t get her feet dirty.”

Vladimir later became a veterinarian. His university was 300 kilometres away. “But I had a motorcycle, a Java,” Vladimir remembers. “I could come home every weekend on my Java. That was a big event for the village each time! Back then, hardly anyone had their own vehicle. And of course Anna often rode with me. She loved it! Right, Anna?”

“Of course I rode with you on the motorcycle, and of course I enjoyed it,” says Anna with a shy smile as she serves some delicious home-made treats. Anna, too, would have liked to study. But because of her Jewish background, she was not admitted to university in then Soviet Moldova.

She spends a long time looking at the greeting card we brought her, which quotes from the prophet Isaiah that she will be like a beautiful crown in the hand of her God.

Anna is now supported “because of her Jewish origins” and is able to share her story with the people who love her.

You can support first- or second-generation Holocaust survivors in Ukraine and Moldova through Christians for Israel. Our workers on the ground make sure that the help arrives and that the message of love is conveyed during personal visits.

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