In War-torn Ukraine, a Lifeline for Those Who Lost Everything

October 14, 2015


Alexander, 78, and his wife, Bella, 78, are Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from Donetsk, Ukraine, the town where they’ve lived their entire lives.

When Donetsk became a conflict zone in the summer of 2014, the couple was forced to flee to their home for the relative safety of Kramatorsk, about an hour north.

They thought the move was temporary — and that they’d return home in a month — so they rented a makeshift apartment in an undesirable part of the city. But as the situation in Donetsk rapidly deteriorated, Alexander and Bella realized they couldn’t go back. Both depend on critical medications that haven’t been available in the city since the conflict started.

And that’s just half of it.

Even without their health challenges, it wouldn’t be easy to return to Donetsk. Special permits are required to cross the border between Ukraine and the area controlled by separatists.

“It takes at least three days of waiting in the middle of nowhere to get this permit,” said Alexander, describing a challenging situation for an aging couple.

And even if Alexander and Bella did manage to get home, they would never be allowed to escape again. The path between Donetsk and Kramatorsk is now a one-way road.

The couple wasn’t even able to grab their belongings.

“We ran away in summer clothes. It was July!” says Bella. “Thanks to Hesed, we’ve got winter clothes. Frankly, I have no idea what would we do without Hesed’s help.”

Today, JDC’s Hesed social welfare center helps Alexander and Bella with rental payments, medicines, and food. The pair is one of some 2,800 IDPs aided by JDC.

Alexander is quick to say that he and his wife wouldn’t be able to survive without Hesed and JDC.

“They support us not only materially. The moral support means a lot to us. We came here without knowing anyone,” he said. “Our life began with a war and now ends with another war. But Hesed accepted us as a part of their family.”

JDC’s global programs are made possible by the generosity of our supporters.

Sign Up for JDC Voices Stories