Faces of The Fellowship: Irina

The Fellowship  |  March 4, 2020

Irina faces anti-Semitic attitudes in Russia.

Irina has always had a strong spirit, pride in her Jewish background, and the courage to stand up for herself despite the anti-Semitic environment in which she grew up.

Irina was born in Russia a month after the start of World War II. She still remembers the constant fear, the deafening sounds of falling bombs, and her family’s need to escape to Kazakhstan.

After the war, Irina continued to face anti-Semitism and challenges as a Jew. In school, Irina’s classmates called her a “zhidovka,” a derogatory term for a Jewish woman. Although Irina did not understand exactly what the word meant, she knew through her classmate’s tone of voice that the word was hateful. She decided to confront the classmate after school, and things became heated, which led her to punch the classmate. Her teacher sent Irina to the principal for discipline and she didn’t explain her actions knowing that it wouldn’t matter. Bullying Jews was socially acceptable, even among school administrators.

Despite most adults at her school having anti-Semitic attitudes, Irina did have an adult that she could look up to — her father. Irina credits her father’s example for keeping a positive attitude. “Whatever happened to him at work, my father always paused at the door of our home. Then he shrugged off the hardships of the day, and entered with a bright smile. So did I, for all my life,” Irina explains. Having him in her life protected her from the harshness of the anti-Semitic attitudes they faced all their lives. Positivity made things a little more bearable.

Irina earned a degree in economics and enjoyed a successful career in banking, where she earned promotions. She married but had no children. When Irina’s father broke his leg and couldn’t move for months, she cared for him. After he passed away, Irina’s mother struggled to overcome the loss and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, passing away not long after.

Pride in Her Jewish Faith

It wasn’t until after her retirement that Irina discovered the newly energized Jewish community, where she could express her faith freely without fear and where they understood the pain and danger of dealing with anti-Semitism. She became an active volunteer in the community and participant in the many activities and events offered.

But as she grew older, she developed more health issues. And her pension did not increase with rising costs, so Irina soon found that she was in need of the Jewish community’s help.

Thanks to The Fellowship, Irina receives food packages, medical services, and emergency assistance. Irina’s very survival relies on this essential support. She wants to thank Fellowship donors for helping improve her life and happiness.

There are still more people in need. Thousands of frail elderly and Holocaust survivors face dire poverty, and almost all are completely alone and unable to care for themselves. Those who faced such horrors and anti-Semitism in their lives shouldn’t have to suffer like this in their elderly years. Learn how your gift today will help provide food, critical medicines, shelter, and many other basic necessities.