Faces of The Fellowship: Janis

The Fellowship  |  January 17, 2018

Janis, an IFCJ recipient sitting in a chair with a blue shirt.
Faces of The Fellowship: Janis

In mid-January, the temperatures are bitterly low in Odessa, Ukraine, so the passersby rush about their business, hurrying to get out of the freezing cold. They hurry past Olga, even though they see this young mother trudging along toward the hospital, pushing her son’s wheelchair and carrying her small baby on her back.

This is the third time this year that 10-year-old Janis has needed surgery on his tendons. Janis has cerebral palsy, a birth defect that causes his limbs to be overly rigid. Unfortunately, the medical community in Ukraine doesn’t offer physical therapy that helps cerebral palsy patients, so Janis’ muscles grow increasingly rigid as he grows older. Olga watches her son become more handicapped, and struggles to remain hopeful.

“Life is a painful struggle of trying not to drown,” Olga says. “For most people, life gets a little easier as their children grow older. For me, it gets harder, as Janis’ wheelchair just gets heavier.”

Janis’ father abandoned his family soon after Janis’s diagnosis. Olga was pregnant with their second child, so Olga’s baby, Alex, will never meet his father. Every day Olga cares for her children in their dingy and cold apartment in Odessa. Every night, Olga goes out to work the night shift while her mother watches the sleeping children.

Even though Olga works hard and also receives disability for Janis, she barely has enough to sustain her small family. She struggles to clothe her children and to keep the apartment warm during the winter. She rarely has enough to feed them, so her kids regularly go to bed cold and hungry.

When The Fellowship discovered Olga and her family, they had reached their limit.

“When you feel like the world has abandoned you to your sorrows, living begins to feel pointless,” Olga tells The Fellowship representative. “But now that The Fellowship has offered to help us, we don’t feel as small or neglected. Thanks to The Fellowship, I understand that even though life is difficult, it is a battle worth fighting.”

Olga and her sons now receive monthly food packages from The Fellowship, as well as clothing vouchers for new, warm clothing. Today, they feel nourished, warm, and, most importantly, they know someone cares about them. “We are so much happier now and less afraid of what tomorrow might bring, all thanks to Rabbi Eckstein and The Fellowship!”

With these needs provided for, Olga can focus on loving her kids. They spend more time together and Olga isn’t as stressed or worried. Thanks to The Fellowship‘s generous donors, we continue to reach out to needy families like Olga’s in the former Soviet Union, helping them find hope.


Learn how you can help other families in need, like Janis’, receive the lifesaving care they desperately need.

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