Jewish Caring and Warmth Carry Family through Moldova’s Harsh Winter

February 15, 2012


January brings the heaviest snow in Moldova, so Tatiana, 11, is spending most of her days huddled around the gas stove with her parents, two younger sisters, 9 and 6, and a teenage cousin who lives with them.

The family’s two-room apartment is in an old Soviet-style building that has no electricity or running water, no kitchen or bathroom, and no heat. Thankfully, the local JDCHesed (welfare center) has supplied coal to tie them over for the long, icy season, and sealed their drafty windows to keep in the heat as long as possible.

Like millions of people in Moldova, Tatiana’s unemployed parents are struggling to survive the harsh conditions of an economic depression that began in 1991 and continues today. Tatiana’s mom works in the fields collecting fruits and vegetables in the summers; in the winters she tries to earn any money she can selling produce at local markets. Her dad is a builder, but construction has slowed and even the limited projects won’t resume until the snow starts to melt.

Living in the poorest country in Europe, destitute and vulnerable families like this one have almost no social services to rely on. This past year has been particularly hard, as the cost of electricity has gone up 20%, heating 30%; gas 16%, water and sanitation 20%, and food costs nearly 40%. For families like Tatiana’s, who barely make ends meet on a monthly income of $70 in the good months, these hikes mean they simply have to go without.

Facing these hard times and the challenge of persistently high unemployment rates, Tatiana’s dad is considering going abroad to look for work so he can send money home. But with the economic crisis impacting much of Europe, even the remittances being sent back into Moldova—which has one of the highest dependencies on them in the world—have dropped significantly.

The dire economic needs of families like Tatiana’s are precisely why JDC’s work in Moldova is so critical. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews-JDC Partnership for Children in the Former Soviet Union provides Tatiana and her sisters with winter relief and necessities like clothing, shoes, and blankets; and food packages, which include staples like meat, rice, flour, tea, sugar, and cooking oil, ensure the kids will eat at least once every day.

The local Hesed worker who delivers their aid packages is their main link to the local Jewish community. The girls learn about Jewish traditions and holidays from their father. Their grandmother, who passed away two years ago, taught them what she knew about her family and Jewish food.

While spring—and work opportunities for Tatiana’s parents—is still many months away, the family knows they will have the support they need to make it to the warmer months. With JDC caring for their basic needs and helping them maintain a Jewish connection, this family can afford something very precious in their country: hope.

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