From the President: A Day in Kiev

Penny Blumenstein

– JDC President

Arriving in Kiev this morning, I saw a beautiful city that appeared peaceful and untouched by an uprising that changed the government.

My first stop was the JDC Beiteinu and Hesed that opened two months ago. It was already filled with activity. The young children looked like all those we have seen all over the world, including in our own backyard. The teens were meeting as a group — planning activities and taking dancing and singing classes. Younger children were in an art class that taught them about nature and life, helping them prepare for school.

And then we entered a room filled with adults  every one of them a displaced person. They were having a therapy session with the grief counselor and were kind enough to pause and tell us their stories. The flight to safety, the fear of return. One woman, with two young children in the classes I'd seen earlier, told us how her husband's auto repair business was destroyed and that there were mines in the streets, which meant her children could never go out to play. Another couple told of the mines that had been planted on the roof of their apartment building, so they could never return to where they'd lived.

These were people who had not been at risk, who went to work and came home to their own homes every night. Now they are living with friends, relatives, or in temporary shelters with no resources. They told their stories with tears in their eyes and fear and sadness in their voices.

These are the people we have taken under the JDC umbrella.

Penny Blumenstein is the President of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

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