It was early in the morning when Alexander, a local resident, was busy shoveling the snow off the pavement during the winter of 2005. He was hurrying to work and could hardly pay attention to the noises he heard. It must be my imagination, he thought. But he knew in his heart something was wrong. Following the sound of the voices, he entered the large building nearby, in one of Odessa, Ukraine’s overpopulated neighborhoods.
After searching for a while, Alexander found himself walking down the stairs towards the building’s old and abandoned basement. He had to work his way through junk and filth, but the two voices of young children crying and screaming in distress convinced him to continue searching.
Finally, he was amazed to find Anya – a year-and-a-half-old baby girl suffering from pneumonia and a high temperature – together with her eight-year-old brother, Vitaly. The two were suffering from severe malnutrition after being abandoned by their parents and freezing in the unheated basement for days.
Alexander called the police, who immediately began searching for answers and looking for the children’s parents.
It has been ten years since the children were rescued. After all this time, the detectives finally discovered that Anya’s grandmother and mother both suffered from schizophrenia. Sadly, we now know that Anya, too, suffers from this mental disorder.
But during the initial investigation, while attempting to figure out who the children were, the police asked Vitaly where he went to school and he answered, “At the Or Avner Jewish school.” This led the police directly to the Jewish community.
Vitaly and Anya only attended the school for a very short while. Their parents often took them elsewhere or kept them home, but thanks to their short attendance, these children were now reconnected to the Jewish community who embraced them with love.
Anya and Vitaly joined this Fellowship-supported Jewish children’s home, and have been part of its family for the last ten tears. All their needs are cared for every day of the year, including excellent Jewish and general education, tutoring, nutritious food, lodging, clothing, medical and psychological treatment – and, most importantly, a loving, warm, and supportive staff and a place to call home.
So even without parents to raise Anya and her brother, they know they belong in the Jewish community of Odessa. Their teachers and healthcare providers care about them and want to see them succeed. With so many people to support them, Vitaly and Anya know they have finally found a family and a home.