Winter Relief for Moldova’s Vulnerable Jews

November 12, 2014


A widow living alone in a small studio apartment in B?ól__i, Bronya Sushinskaya, 75, struggles to get by on her meager monthly state pension, especially during Moldova’s brutal winters.

With utility costs taking up more than 85 percent of her monthly budget, Bronya faces a difficult challenge each year as she struggles to find a way to pay for winter heat, which can sometimes cost nearly double her pension.

“With such a meager pension, it’s very difficult for me to make ends meet,” said Bronya, who also suffers from poor eyesight and a host of serious heart conditions. “This is why JDC’s assistance is so important. It’s how I survive.”

JDC’s Hesed social welfare center in B?ól__i, where Bronya has been a member since 1999, provides her with material assistance each winter to cover heating costs, as well as a warm tracksuit, winter boots, and sturdy shoes when she needs them.

In addition to winter relief, she receives help through JDC’s food card and medical assistance programs. She also attends the B?ól__i Hesed day center.

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

“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.

Not limited to the elderly, critical winter assistance is also provided by JDC to families like the Tsehmans, who live in the small  Moldovan village of Elizaveta.

On the surface, the family’s two children are ordinary, happy-go-lucky youngsters. Eight-year-old Robert is in second grade, interested in music and math. Five-year-old Vasilina attends kindergarten and loves fairy tales, cartoons, singing, and drawing.

But the family’s small house is in need of major repairs. Their water comes from a neighbor’s well, the bathroom is outdoors, and the house is heated with an old furnace.

During the winter, the children had been sleeping with most of their clothes on and frequently caught colds. To make the house livable, the family must keep the furnace going day and night.

JDC helped the Tsehmans repair rotten windows to keep out the cold and fix the furnace and a broken front door.

Still, the family’s meager income — comprised of the mother’s small factory salary and the grandparents’ state pensions — is not enough to purchase fuel for the winter. JDC’s assistance will help the family stay warm throughout the coming winter, and purchase food, medicine, and other necessary supplies.

Robert and Vasilina are among the thousands of children in the FSU who benefit from JDC’s winter relief program each year.

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