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Faces of The Fellowship: Alla

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

At first glance, Alla, 74, and Olga seem like sisters. By the warm way they greet each other and the care in Olga’s voice as she inquires after Alla’s health, it’s clear they have a close relationship.

In reality, Alla and Olga first met last year, when Olga became Alla’s homecare worker, provided by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ). Alla suffers from cerebral palsy, which has kept her homebound for the past eight years, as has her increasingly failing eyesight. For Alla, Olga has been a lifesaver.

“Olga is a priceless gift. She is my only motivation to get up in the morning,” says Alla. “With Olga here, I am not scared of dying. I know that she will take care of me.”

Alla worked for years as a pharmacist and cultivated a circle of friends. But since her parents passed away, Alla’s life has grown increasingly difficult because they were the ones who cared for her.

Alla still lives in the single room she shared with her parents, part of a larger, communal apartment. Living in a communal apartment is difficult. Alla must coordinate every repair with her neighbors, and so many necessary repairs haven’t been made.

Alla shares her kitchen with two other families, and each family owns a separate table and oven, leaving little room to walk. Alla struggles to maneuver around the crowded room with her cumbersome crutches.

Thankfully, Alla has Olga to help her with food preparation. Olga also goes one step further beyond simply preparing food in Alla’s crowded kitchen: “Whenever I cook anything at home for my family, I cook extra for Alla and my other IFCJ clients,” Olga explains. “How could I eat such tasty food knowing that my elderly friends have nothing?”

Indeed, Olga’s dedication extends far beyond the three days she spends with Alla each week. She constantly thinks of ways she can help Alla and her other clients, and includes her whole family in this mission. Recently, Olga and her husband found a used chandelier online, and they ordered and installed it in Alla’s room, lighting up her home and her spirits. 

Alla is convinced that without Olga, she would have passed away months ago. She cannot afford to pay for private homecare; her pension is far too small. And she has no relatives to help her.

In addition to caring for her material needs, Olga’s presence also keeps Alla’s mind sharp and gives her hope. “This homecare assistance is so huge that I can’t find the right words for it,” says Alla. “Olga’s care holds me up and keeps me going.” 

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