Faces of The Fellowship: Isaak and Nina

Ana Hobson  |  July 29, 2015

Nina in a pink shirt and Isaak in a green shirt, both IFCJ recipients.

As a child, Isaak (78) remembers being evacuated from his hometown in Ukraine in order to escape the approaching Nazi army. Now a grandfather, Isaak has been evacuated once again, forced to flee the fighting in his hometown of Lugansk, Ukraine.

This time, Isaak was still getting over heart surgery when the fighting started, and he can only pray that all the stress and traveling won’t result in complications. But he feels he had no choice but to leave.

“The rebels would bring mobile missile launchers to residential neighborhoods, shell army posts, and then quickly move on to another place,” says Isaak, describing the situation which forced them out of Lugansk, “Meanwhile, that neighborhood becomes a target of return fire.”

With civilians caught in the crossfire, Isaak decided to take his wife, Nina, who also has limited mobility, their daughter-in-law, and granddaughter and flee to the northern city of Sumy. His son remained behind in Lugansk in order to keep his job.

“We left in shorts and sandals,” Isaak recalls. “We were sure we’d only be gone for a month. At this point, we’ve had to go back twice to get winter clothes, but it is expensive and we can’t fit more than one bag of belongings into the car. So most of the clothes we are wearing now are donations from the people of Sumy.”

In Sumy, Isaak and his family are living in part of an abandoned house. The house’s owner is happy to have them there because they help take care of the house, and therefore he does not charge them rent, only utilities. There was no furniture in the house when they arrived, so they are slowly collecting what they can. The family also had to fix the gas and water lines, which had been shut off and abandoned.

“We want to go home, of course,” says Nina, but it is still too dangerous to go back. They are worried that when they eventually do return home, they will face heavy debts for utilities. They can’t pay any of their bills in Lugansk now as all of their income goes to food and utilities in Sumy.

In Sumy, the family is being helped by The Fellowship, which bought them a bed and gives them a monthly food card. The Fellowship also provides Isaak and Nina with winter relief, personal hygiene products, and homecare, as they both have limited mobility. As these elderly Ukrainian Jews lean on one another during this difficult time, they are exceedingly grateful they can together lean on The Fellowship for lifesaving support.

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