Caring for Ukraine’s Most Vulnerable Elderly Jews: My Passion, My Purpose

JDC homecare worker Nadezhda Borsch cares for vulnerable elderly Jews in Kyiv, Ukraine — something she sees as a responsibility and a calling.

By Nadezhda Borsch - JDC Homecare Worker | December 29, 2020

Nadezhda Borsch, a JDC homecare worker, reads with Liliya Zeldich, a Holocaust survivor and JDC client in Kyiv, Ukraine.

I really love my work with JDC and the Hesed social welfare center it supports where I live, in Kyiv. The work we do on behalf of isolated elderly Jews is something I see as the best of what Ukraine can offer to our most vulnerable. It’s really something to be proud of, and I hope it serves as an example for others.

Sometimes, when I’m walking down the street, I see poor old ladies who I know are hungry, and my heart just breaks. I always buy a little pastry for them or a chocolate bar. It makes me happy to give them something tangible. But of course, JDC and Hesed take it so much further, really providing for all of our clients’ needs: food, medicine, homecare, and more. JDC clients aren’t scared or worried they’re alone in the world — instead, they’re happy to be alive. The assistance JDC gives is really a huge help, and I am humbled to be a small part of the operation.

Nadezhda review photographs and mementos with JDC client Liliya Zeldich in Kyiv, Ukraine.

I’ve been working with a Holocaust survivor named Liliya Zeldich for about eight years, and I’ve learned so much from her. When I started working with her, I was back in school to study social work, and I’m so grateful that Liliya, who worked teaching construction drawing for four decades, helped me with my homework. I think it’s important to continue soaking up the wisdom of older people. We go through life knowing so little, and we can learn so much just by listening. Over the course of nearly a decade working together, Liliya and I have developed a shared common language that is really something special.

Liliya has become like a family member to me. My mother passed away a number of years ago, and now Liliya has become more than a client — it’s like she’s my grandmother or another beloved relative. I’m always busy, and I’m always thinking, “Oh, I should call Liliya and see if she needs me to pick up this or that,” because I know our support is critical to her. Cooking, cleaning, shopping for groceries, stopping by the pharmacy to pick up her medications — somehow G-d gives me the time to do it all. I help Liliya with anything she asks for, and even though I’m always working hard, I’m always happy. Helping people gives you energy and makes you feel useful. That’s one of the reasons this work is so rewarding.

We have to stop saying, ‘This is mine,’ and instead remember, ‘This is all ours.’

We have to stop saying, “This is mine,” and instead remember, “This is all ours.” I’ve always said that the point of life is to help other people — when you help others, you help yourself, too. Life is so short, really.

I try to remember that most problems resolve themselves when you open up your heart and give back to your community, to the people who need it most. I’m grateful to JDC for reminding me that there really are good people in the world, men and women with big hearts who are willing to give their time and money to help others.

Nadezhda Borsch, 55, is a JDC homecare worker in Kyiv, Ukraine.

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