Eight-year-old Elizabeth lives with her parents, two of her sisters, and paternal grandparents in a tiny apartment in Ukraine. Elizabeth sleeps with her sisters, 11-year-old Sofia and 15-year-old Alexandra, in a room lined end to end with mattresses. Thankfully, her two oldest sisters were recently awarded scholarships to study at a Jewish program in Austria. Otherwise, all five siblings would continue to sleep in their crowded room.
Despite the cramped conditions, the girls speak sweetly to one another, and the entire family takes joy in each other’s company. If you met one of the sisters on the street, you would never know she comes from such hardship.
The girls’ father has a severely herniated disk, so he is frequently hospitalized and unable to work. Their mother is also unemployed – she stopped working when her children were young, and has found it difficult to get back into the workforce, especially as she often needs to be home, helping care for her husband or for Elizabeth, who has very serious skin problems.
The few state benefits the family receives are not enough to live on, so The Fellowship is an important part of their lives. The family’s connection with Fellowship-supported Hesed, an organization helping the Jewish community, began when the older daughters became interested in their Jewish heritage. The younger sisters appreciate all the Jewish community events hosted at Hesed and feel connected to their faith. Now the girls treat their Hesed case manager as a beloved aunt – whenever she visits, they rush to hug her and tell her about their day.
Additionally, The Fellowship purchased winter clothes for the sisters and a washing machine for their family last year. Now that their mother no longer has to wash all of their clothes by hand, she has more time to spend with her daughters. They enjoy making crafts together, and the girls’ projects decorate the walls of their apartment. The Fellowship also provides the family with a monthly bank card for food and medicine. The Fellowship bought a sofa and a bed for the girls to sleep on.
“I am grateful to The Fellowship for all your help. Your involvement in our lives helps my children feel comfortable,” says the girls’ mother.