Providing Winter Relief for Kazakhstan’s Most Vulnerable Families

February 5, 2014


In a small and semi-deserted village in eastern Ukraine, Alexander Petrov struggles to provide for his wife and seven children.

The village, which is only accessible by tractor for much of the winter, lies about 80 miles from Donetsk, Ukraine’s fifth-largest city.

Though Petrov works as a doctor in a nearby town, his village’s isolation makes it difficult to heat his home and care for his loved ones. The village consists of about 300 houses; a third of the buildings are deserted, and about half of the rest serve as summer homes for families who come only for vacations. His family lives in three rooms and owns almost no furniture.

The Jewish Family Service program provides the Petrovs with a monthly food card to purchase groceries, school supplies, winter vitamin sets, warm-weather clothes, and coal to heat their home.

Without the JDC-provided coal, the Petrovs could only heat their home with wood, as their village has no gas supply or running water. When the family ran out of money to purchase firewood, the children would be drafted to join their parents in a nearby forest to collect it.

Without JDC’s winter relief, Alexander would be unable to care for his five daughters and two sons. But JDC’s assistance to the family goes beyond simply providing for their material needs when temperatures drop.

JDC also provided financial help to enable the Petrovs to attend a seaside Jewish family retreat last summer — the furthest the children had ever been from home.

They are among the more than 6,200 children in the former Soviet Union (FSU) who benefit from JDC’s winter relief program each year.

From Eastern Europe to Central Asia, JDC’s work in preparing the most vulnerable Jews for winter is one of its signature accomplishments throughout the former Soviet Union (FSU).

“In different parts of the FSU, winter assistance remains relevant and sometimes even critical for survival,” said Yulia Lidis, a JDC staff member in the region.

Almost 2,000 miles northwest of the Petrovs, Dmitri and Tatiana Belozerov live in the village of Chernigovka, Kazakhstan, with their two daughters, Snezhana, 8, and Viktoria, 6. Their village — located about 100 miles from the city of Petropavl, about the size of Yonkers, New York — is fast dying out, and employment opportunities are limited.

Tatiana does not work, and Dmitri is only able to find occasional seasonal work as a tractor driver. The family survives on about $50 each month — enough to scrape by and provide for the barest of basic food needs, but not enough to fund medications for their daughters or toiletries.

Without JDC’s help, the couple could not afford to heat their home — a necessity in Chernigovka, which experiences winter for nine months of the year and sees average temperatures of -4 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heating their home would eat up nearly seven months of the family’s income, making the coal JDC’s Hesed social welfare network provides invaluable.

The Belozerovs also receive warm blankets, warm clothes, vitamins, school supplies, a heater, some food support, and laundry detergent from JDC.

For more information on our work in the former Soviet Union

JDC is grateful for the generous support of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews of Canada, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, under the leadership of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Stacy Schusterman, The Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Charitable Foundation, Edgar Snyder, David Konikoff, the Max and Anna Baran, Ben and Sarah Baran, and Milton Baran Endowment Fund, the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Superbag Operating, Ltd., the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Parasol Foundation Trust, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, the Viterbi Family Foundation, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, the Turk Family Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, World Jewish Relief, the UJA-Federation of New York, and the Jewish Federations of North America.

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