Feature Stories

Community Gives Hungry Brothers in Tashkent Aid and Hope

Andrey and Artom battle hunger daily, but they “look forward to the holidays when the food package we receive from the Jewish community for Rosh Hashanah arrives. It’s the only time all year we eat dates and cookies.”
Andrey and Artom battle hunger daily, but they “look forward to the holidays when the food package we receive from the Jewish community for Rosh Hashanah arrives. It’s the only time all year we eat dates and cookies.”

For many children, chewing gum is a common, sweet treat. For the Samaras boys, Andrey, 11, and Artyom, 9, it’s what fastens sheets of plastic to their window to protect them from Tashkent’s howling winter winds or 110 degree heatwave temperatures.

They live on the edge of town, at the end of a long dirt road where wild donkeys, geese, and mule carts drawn by elderly women dodge gaping potholes and large rocks. Andrey and Artyom share a two-room shack with their mother, Lyudmila, a recovering alcoholic. The boys’ stepfather occasionally stops by unannounced; when he’s in a good mood, he leaves a few hundred Uzbeks—less than 20 cents—for food.

The foundation of the Samaras’ mud and straw hut is eroding; the walls are crumbling and in complete decay. The makeshift roof is held on by rocks, bricks, and plastic. There is no electricity or running water.

“We’re too busy taking care of the daily chores and trying to stay alive to think about doing kid stuff,” says Artyom. “We never notice that we don’t have a television, a bathroom, an outhouse, a refrigerator, heat, or enough food in the cupboard.”

The only help these brothers have in the world comes from JDC’s partnership with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ). The Samaras family relies on the supermarket food card from the IFCJ-JDC Partnership for Children in the Former Soviet Union to purchase groceries each month and is provided otherwise unaffordable basic necessities—sets of toiletries, sheets, school uniforms and supplies. The free medical consultations made possible by the Partnership are especially critical for Artyom, a 4th-grader who is battling failing eyesight, abdominal pains from a developmental defect, as well as an anxiety disorder.

Though the family’s most immediate challenge is surviving day to day, the IFCJ-JDC Partnership also ensures through JDC’s Jewish Family Service model of case management that the Samaras receive assistance that goes beyond the material and engages them in local Jewish activities. The boys’ haven 15 kilometers from home is the JDC supported Tashkent Jewish Community Center, where Andrey and Artyom visit for help with their homework, to celebrate Jewish holidays, and to participate with their mom in Jewish family retreats—a rare opportunity for them to learn and share Jewish experiences with other families.

Tags for this story: Children, Families, Health / Medical Issues

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