Critical Crisis Care Continues

Hesed worker Irina with Lyudmila, a client in Kiev.
Hesed worker Irina with Lyudmila, a client in Kiev.

For Irina, a homecare worker at JDC’s Hesed social welfare center in Kiev, the crisis in Ukraine wasn’t going to stop her from taking care of her clients – even if merely doing her job put her in the snipers’ crosshairs.

One of Irina’s clients – a woman named Lyudmila – lives on Institutskaya Street, where snipers camped on roofs during the worst of the crisis. The street is now set to be renamed “Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred” Street in honor of the protesters killed in the Euromaidan violence.

Between February 18-20, when the fighting was at its worst, Irina stayed with Lyudmila overnight, as her elderly client was scared to sleep alone. A survivor of World War II, Lyudmila remembers post-liberation Kiev, when she returned to the city as a 12-year-old in 1944. Now disabled and alone, Lyudmila is fully dependent on Hesed – receiving a food card, medication, and home care, as well as renting rehabilitation equipment with JDC’s help.

While staying overnight with Lyudmila, Irina was sure not to forget her second client, another elderly woman living in the same neighborhood. Using Lyudmila’s kitchen, she’d cook enough soup for both women, and when she heard the gunfire die down, she’d run to the second client’s apartment as fast as she could, hoping to get there before it resumed. 

“It only worked sometimes,” she said.

As the situation in Ukraine continues to develop, JDC is keeping a close eye on the rising tension in the Crimean capital of Simferopol. JDC’s Hesed welfare and community center is open and operating with special hours. An emergency phone chain has been set up to keep Hesed staff members and volunteers in contact with their often-homebound clients.

As Ukraine grapples with the drastically changing political and economic climate, JDC's operations continue uninterrupted and its emergency network remains active, adjusting to periods of unrest and calm in a variety of locations around the country.

In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, which is experiencing increased tensions resulting in the suspension of public transit and closure of the city center, JDC’s Hesed center is operating at special hours and has increased security. Hesed staff continue to provide services to people in and around the city and has activated an emergency call system to track clients' needs and respond in a deteriorating enviornment.

In Kiev, where the situation has calmed since last week’s violence, and a variety of other cities like Kharkov, Lvov, and Dnepropetrovsk, services to elderly and poor families continue and JDC’s emergency network in the city is poised to act if the situation dictates. And while security has been increased at the Hesed in Zaporozhye after the firebombing of a synagogue last week, JDC remains active in aiding those in its care.

You can follow our real-time work on the ground on Facebook and Twitter, as well as on our Ukraine crisis page.

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