‘My Heart Feels Full’

The Fellowship  |  April 5, 2022

Elderly couple in Ukraine receive Passover aid from The Fellowship
(Photo: FJC/Victor Adjamsky)

June 21, 1941, promised to be a bright summer day. But it was the last bright moment that Leonid would experience for many decades. That day, the young Jewish boy and his family fled their home in Zhitomir, Ukraine, as the Nazis invaded and began to kill the city’s Jews.

Leonid’s family had no idea they would live on the run — that they would live like animals — for four years. Sick with typhoid fever. Frostbitten from the harsh Soviet winter. Drinking water from mud puddles to quench their thirst for just a moment. Doing whatever was necessary not to starve, to merely survive.

But survive they did, returning home at war’s end to find that their home and all of their belongings had been burned to the ground. Despite now living under communist oppression, Leonid’s family’s inner strength and determination allowed themselves to rebuild their lives.

But life wasn’t easy. When the family returned to their synagogue, Leonid’s father—the congregation’s cantor—was hit by a car on the way home one Shabbat. His father’s death left a hole in the boy’s heart, and Leonid lost his connection with his faith.

Now 91, Leonid cares for his wife Maya, who suffered a stroke before the pandemic, making life lonelier and harder than ever before. But with the support of The Fellowship, Leonid found he still had friends — and faith.

Last Passover, Fellowship volunteers brought the elderly couple food — not only to celebrate the holiday, but to fill their empty pantry. And now, more than eighty years after his family first felt the brunt of war in their native Ukraine, Leonid knows that he has friends with The Fellowship who love and care for him and his wife. “My heart feels full and my life feels like it has come full circle,” Leonid said tearfully. “Thank you for reconnecting me with my traditions.”

This Passover, you can fill the souls and stomachs of elderly and impoverished Jewish people — many of them Holocaust survivors like Leonid — who have no one else.

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