It is my second day of a one-month intensive visit in Moldova, and my fourth of five home visits today. I am here to deepen my understanding of how JDC operates in the former Soviet Union and how the lives of our clients are different because we are here. I’m always nervous at the doorstep, never knowing what to expect, but always, after every home visit, changed by what I see.
The door opens and I am greeted by two beautiful boys. D., ten years old, is blond and blue-eyed; V., four years younger and a head shorter, has dark skin and sharp black eyes. I am speechless, as is their mother Lina, until 14-year-old S. chimes in with a quiet “Shalom,” and we all smile and relax.
Lina owned and operated a small business until her husband drove the family into thousands of dollars of debt and promptly disappeared. A teacher at the Herzl ORT School in Kishinev noticed that the older boys seldom had food to eat and notified the staff at NES, the local JDC-supported Jewish Family Services. The family’s electricity had been cut off and their property was on the verge of being seized until NES stepped in.
“Lina is a changed woman,” explained the NES professional accompanying me, a single mother of three. “In the past year, she has held down a job and repaid almost 90% of her husband’s debt. Moreover, when she realized she had an opportunity to advance at work, she took a course, became certified, and in less than a year was promoted. But that’s not all,” she continued. “She is also active in the community, and makes a point of giving back. She always asks how she can do more, and stops by our offices to help others in need.”
As we leave the apartment, I can’t help but wonder where Lina and her boys will be a year from now, or five years down the road. I’m not naïve enough to believe every one of our clients can turn their lives around, but from what I’ve seen, Lina is an exceptional case. I ask the NES professional about it—is it possible that this single mother might be a success story? She smiles shyly before she responds and, showing me a photograph of her sons, explains, “I used to be Lina. You and your people used to come to visit me.” [To be continued.]
For more information on JDC activities in Moldova, visit jdc.org
Flo Low, a Senior Associate in JDC’s FSU Division, keeps close tabs on Jewish community affairs in the former Soviet Union; she recently spent a month in Moldova in a field immersion program.
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