As the escalating crisis in Ukraine forces vulnerable Jewish refugees to flee their homes and seek shelter in safer cities, JDC is there – providing for needs ranging from food and medicine to the emotional and spiritual needs of families living on the front lines.
Valentina Kaputyuk and her granddaughter Valery Petrenko left their homes in Donestk several weeks ago due to fighting between the government and separatists and have been staying at the home of a graduate of JDC’s Metsuda young leadership program in Rostov-on-Don, a Russian city a few hours away.
The local Hesed is providing Valery and her grandmother with food and other critical assistance. Incredibly, the pair is already giving back.
Young Valery has been volunteering in the coordination of children’s activities at the Hesed, and will volunteer at the center’s family camp that she and the Metsuda graduate are attending next week.
Also taking refuge in Rostov-on-Don is Olga Gotman, a pediatrician and former Hesed youth club leader in Lugansk, an eastern Ukrainian city at the heart of the crisis.
Olga fled from Lugansk a week ago and now lives in a refugee camp outside Rostov-on-Don with her ten-year-old twin girls, Nikita and Marina.
“We would like to return back at the first opportunity,” she said, “but then what? Life is ruined there.”
Other Jewish families from Ukraine displaced by the crisis have sought shelter in Kiev and Kharkov in Ukraine, and St. Petersburg and Kazan in Russia.
Meanwhile, JDC has stepped up its operations in Ukraine reaching out to Jews remaining in areas plagued by violence.
In Slavyansk, where fighting has intensified in recent days, JDC is caring for more than half the town's 300 Jews (of whom 147 are elderly Hesed clients and 37 are poor children).
Some 6,000 recipients of JDC services living in Kramatorsk, Lugansk, and Donetsk have been contacted by staff over the phone on a regular basis and asked if they are in need of food, medication, transportation, and accommodation.
JDC has created situation rooms where events are monitored closely.
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