The world in which 9-year-old Nastya lives is full of challenges. Her tiny apartment, just one small room and a kitchen, is in an old Soviet apartment complex in a dangerous part of Kiev, Ukraine. Many of her neighbors are criminals and virulent anti-Semites. The walls of her building are covered with nationalist and neo-Nazi graffiti.
Every day, on the way to school, Nastya must pass by a crude drawing of a woman with the word “Jew” imprinted on her forehead. This is the type of “art” that decorates her building’s stairwell.
At the end of the day, the apartment Nastya comes home to is in a state of severe neglect. It is filthy and smells of dirt and sickness. Cockroaches roam free and what little furniture the family has is old and threadbare. The family – Nastya, her mother, and her grandmother – live in dire poverty.
Nastya’s grandmother, Sofia, is retired. Her tiny monthly pension is too small for her to live on, let alone support her daughter and granddaughter as well. Nastya’s mother is battling stage-four liver cancer and is too sick and weak to work.
Nastya and her mother share the apartment’s single bedroom. Sofia sleeps on an old sofa in the apartment’s tiny kitchen. Nastya spends most of her time in the kitchen with her grandmother while her mother recovers from a recent round of chemo in the bedroom.
Amidst all these challenges, Nastya is the family’s ray of light. Extremely smart, she also has an artistic soul – the house is full of her bright, joyful drawings of stars and space. She takes dance classes at the local Jewish community center, which has become her second home.
Neither Nastya nor Sofia ever complain, although they are both worried about the future. “All I know is that even if my mother and grandmother can no longer take care of me, thanks to The Fellowship and the Beitenu program for children, I will never be abandoned,” says Nastya.
Thanks to The Fellowship, Nastya receives food packages so that she always has enough to eat. We also recently provided her with a special massage treatment to combat the crippling headaches she has been having of late. Last year, The Fellowship helped the family pay for their utility costs, which have risen drastically across Ukraine due to the country’s precarious political situation. We also bought Nastya winter clothes and boots to help her get through the bitter winter months. What a joy to provide needed help and hope to this struggling but upbeat family.