Last week, The Fellowship’s latest Freedom Flight brought 110 Ukrainian Jews to Israel, their historic homeland. Yet, many Jewish refugees are still in Ukraine. JTA’s Ben Sales reports on those who remain, and what The Fellowship and its partners are doing to help them:
In a crowded room of the Tolkachov family’s tiny apartment here, a couch and twin bed sit kitty-corner from each other, sandwiching a small crib. In another corner, a wooden table is cluttered with a computer and some toys.
Since October, three generations of the Tolkachov family — grandmother, parents and 22-month-old baby — have all slept in this one room.
Last summer, the family began hearing explosions near their home in Lugansk. Ilya claims they saw Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 fall out of the sky in July after being shot down over Torez, Luba’s hometown.
After the crash, the family packed some clothes and went to visit Luba’s family in Kiev, intending to stay no longer than a few weeks. They have yet to return home.
“Everything that we have, we needed to leave in Lugansk,” Ilya said. “Our flat, all of our belongings, our memories, we have to leave in Lugansk. This is just one more step to a better life.”
JDC has aided more than 600 Jewish refugees in the Kiev area with help from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which has poured more than $19 million into Ukraine since December 2013. Through the local branch of Hesed and Beiteinu, a JDC center for youth and family programs, JDC provides newly arrived families three to six months of subsidies for food, clothes, toiletries, medicine and rent totaling up to about $250 a month. The centers also host programs for the elderly and families, as well as a Sunday school …
Jewish aid workers all say the Jewish community harbors less animosity toward Jewish refugees than Kievans in general. But the burden of helping Jewish refugees has fallen to international groups like IFCJ rather than local Ukrainian Jewish organizations.
Donetsk Rabbi Pinchas Vishetsky, who has seen his city’s community dwindle from 10,000 before the war to 2,000 now, left for Kiev in August. He now manages the Donetsk community’s religious, educational and charity programs from afar, largely through IFCJ funding. He has given up hope of returning anytime in the near future.