Caring for the Vulnerable Elderly in Odessa

Nikita Didenko, 24, of Alchevsk, Ukraine, and Dmitry Mironenko, 23, of Chisinau (Kishinev), Moldova, visited Hesed client Svetlana.
Nikita Didenko, 24, of Alchevsk, Ukraine, and Dmitry Mironenko, 23, of Chisinau (Kishinev), Moldova, visited Hesed client Svetlana.

From Dec. 11-17, the Jewish community of Odessa hosted the year’s final session of Metsuda, JDC’s young leadership initiative in Ukraine. The program works to empower and educate rising stars in the Ukrainian Jewish world and had previously held 2013 sessions in the cities of Lvov, Kharkov, and Dnepropetrovsk.

Nineteen participants and madrichim – themselves Metsuda graduates – participated in the session.

For many, Dec. 15 was the most exciting day of the event, as it gave participants the chance to gain a firsthand look at the major Jewish institutions of this city of approximately one million people and 12,000 Jews. The Metsuda group visited the JDC-funded Beit Grand JCC, as well as the Migdal JCC.

Through seven visits to elderly and children at-risk, the group saw the support the local Hesed and Beitenu day centers gives the city’s most vulnerable Jews.

Nikita Didenko, 24, of Alchevsk, Ukraine, and Dmitry Mironenko, 23, of Chisinau (Kishinev), Moldova, visited Hesed client Svetlana. After fundraising amongst their peers, they spent $50 to purchase basic food and a bouquet of flowers for her and headed for her home with her Hesed Shaarey Tzion caseworker Bella Kleiner.

Svetlana is only 57 years old. After 30 years of work as a nurse and more than seven years of work as a Hesed home care worker taking care of the hardest cases, she ended up homebound and almost bedridden due to a hip fracture. 

"Should I have had $6,000 for the hip replacement surgery, I would not be such a burden for the community now and would do my best to keep on helping others, but, alas... ", Svetlana told the pair in a bitter voice.

Svetlana is totally alone and has not left her apartment for more than 5 years. She lives on the fifth floor, in a tiny one-room apartment that suffers from a leaking roof and desperately needs repairs. The only person from the outside world she sees is her Hesed home care worker. 

"It is so interesting that after all these cold days today the sun is shining brightly and you, two young gentlemen, are visiting me,” Svetlana told Nikita and Dimitry. “You have brought the sun to my life today.”

The visitors and their hostess spent about an hour together. They talked about their young people in their communities: Nikita runs youth programs in Alchevsk, and Dmitry works for Kishinev Hesed as its food programs coordinator.

Svetlana spoke about her family, her parents, and her work. When one of the young men asked her for medical advice, her voice and eyes changed completely: For the first time in so long, she felt needed.

It was another day of mitzvah with Metsuda.



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