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Faces of The Fellowship: Lilia

Faces of The Fellowship: Lilia (photo: JDC/Vladimir Shraga)

Lilia, 69, shares an old, run-down home in Russia with her ailing husband, her 37-year-old daughter Eva, and her adult son.

Lilia’s husband, bed-bound after a stroke and suffering from a number of blood-related illnesses, suffers from lack of urinary control, and his sheets and clothes must be changed and washed every day.

So you can frequently find Lilia and Eva hard at work in the bathroom, wringing out piles of wet clothes and attempting to drain water from their broken washing machine. The machine is so old that the spin cycle no longer works, and all of the family’s laundry must be wrung out by hand.

Eva attempts to help her mother, but, sadly, every time she touches the laundry water, she gets an allergic reaction – her hands and arms swell and turn red. Unfortunately, this allergy is the least of Eva’s problems.

Eva, who has developmental disabilities, was born without a bladder. As a baby, she constantly needed operations. In fact, for the first two and a half years of her life, she lived with an open pelvic cavity. To this day, Eva continues to have problems with her urinary tract system. Her life consists of doctor’s visits and courses of treatment.

While the family suffers with so many physical ailments, they also live in poverty. And it is unlikely that the family’s financial situation will improve anytime soon. Lilia receives what is considered a decent pension for her 36 years of work as a teacher. But she spends most of this pension on medications for both Eva and her husband. Lilia’s husband receives his own disability pension, but it is not enough, which is a shame considering that the majority of his health problems are the result of his years of work in a dangerous factory.

It is hard to imagine all of the challenges that Lilia deals with on a daily basis. Many would feel overwhelmed by even one of these issues. But not only does Lilia manage with grace, she even finds time to volunteer with her local Jewish community, delivering meals-on-wheels to bed-bound clients.

“After I retired from my teaching job, I was a homecare worker, so just delivering meals feels like nothing. But at least I feel I am being a little useful,” Lilia explains.

In fact, Lilia continues to offer a kind of homecare, both to her husband, and to a cousin who lives in a small town that is 20 miles away. This cousin is sick and has no other family, so Lilia visits him a few days a week, bringing food and care. 

Even with so many struggles, Lilia manages to work hard and help care for everyone in her life. Such a strong and loving woman deserves all the support available. Thankfully, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) helps by providing a bank card, which they use to buy healthy food. Last year, IFCJ also provided Eva with much needed dental care.

Barely surviving, Lilia feels very blessed for all the love and care she receives from IFCJ! She knows so many generous Christian and Jewish friends around the world care for her family.

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