Faces of The Fellowship: Sibo

The Fellowship  |  September 4, 2019

Sibo Shuminov sitting on a couch looking directly at the camera.

Sibo says all she needs is food to survive. If she receives a phone call or visitor, she feels doubly blessed.

Sibo lives mere miles from the Mediterranean Sea where the sea air blows leafy palms, and red, yellow and pink flowers bloom in the sun. On the surface, life seems idyllic. However, at 81 years old, Sibo’s life is consumed by poverty and loneliness. She struggles to pay her public-housing rent, the gas, electric and phone bills, plus cover food, clothing, and medication. Sibo has many needs, but only asks for one thing—food.

She is in such dire financial straits that she won’t turn on lights, use her stove, or buy clothing or medicine. She simply exists on what little she can. Her quality of life is so low that Fellowship stepped in to help ensure her survival, supplying her with monthly grocery cards. She would likely not survive much longer without the assistance.

Her apartment is bare except for a couple of exhausted couches covered by blankets, along with a small curio with a handful of mismatched glassware and a handful of faded family photos.

Sibo was born in 1938 in Azerbaijan. She was one of nine children—five of whom died in childhood. She was orphaned at a young age and never knew her parents. She does know her father was killed in World War II and her mother died in the capital Baku.

Sibo grew up to have five children—one died at age seven. She has two sons in Moscow and a daughter in Azerbaijan, all of whom she speaks to intermittently by phone. Her third son was injured in the military and lives in Jerusalem.

She made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in 2003 with her husband, but he died three years later, and she’s been on her own ever since. She and her husband were both orphans, and all she’s ever known is poverty. Still, she says she has never complained.

Though they had little money (her husband could only find low-wage jobs), they had family and were happy.

Seven years ago, she went to visit her daughter in Baku. The neighbors assumed she had died, because she has no friends or family, and they heard no sounds from her apartment. The police came and kicked in her door. Sibo returned to her broken-in apartment and a bill she could not pay to repair the door.

Soon after, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She’s had three surgeries and can eat only a strict diet of specific foods. This makes the Fellowship grocery cards she receives extra important.

Sibo says she gets so lonely that she cries. She has no place to feel secure, but Israel is where she wants to be.

But thanks to Fellowship donors, she doesn’t feel so alone anymore.

“I’m happy to know there are those who think of us and want to help,” she says. “Thank you very much to all those who contribute so I can have what I need.”

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