Faces of The Fellowship: Irina | IFCJ
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Faces of The Fellowship: Irina

Faces of The Fellowship: Irina (Photo: JDC/Arik Shraga)

Irina celebrated her 4th birthday just three days before the outbreak of World War II. The events of her early childhood were so traumatic that now, at 80 years old, she still remembers the tiniest details with accuracy.

“Early in the morning, I was standing on a balcony, enjoying the beginning of a new day,” she begins. “The air was so warm and pleasant, and it felt nice simply to breathe. And then, suddenly, instead of sun, a black thundercloud appeared – which later I found out was a bomber aircraft – and the sky immediately turned from blue to black. There were dozens of explosions, and I felt a wave drag me off the balcony. I gripped hold of the metal rail and lost consciousness. I could not speak for a long time afterwards. It turned out that the house next door was completely destroyed by that explosion.”

Irina starts to weep as she recalls these painful early memories: “I remember this well, because before the evacuation, I went to that house to leave a ‘secret letter,’ as we kids used to do. I took two tiny pieces of broken glass and put a flower and a note between them.”

Wiping away tears, Irina sits in her tiny kitchen in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Her apartment’s remaining two rooms are filled with a lifetime of belongings, and the remains of aborted attempts at renovations.

This isn’t the future Irina anticipated. The daughter of a military father and a stay-at-home mother, Irina worked as a doctor her entire life, but still wasn’t able to earn enough to ensure a comfortable retirement. Ironically, after a lifetime of treating others, Irina is now the one who needs to be cared for. She is battling diabetes and recently suffered a stroke.

Irina's physical challenges are exacerbated by her emotional ones. She is a widow with no children. Irina is very lonely. She remains active, but in reality, has no one to rely upon except for The Fellowship. We provide her food and show her that someone cares. Irina feels a little less alone with this lifeline of friendship and nourishment. She feels grateful to the Christian and Jewish Fellowship friends around the world who make this care possible.

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