Rescue effort is part of ongoing campaign to save and serve those in desperate need
Anyone who has ever walked into the home of Rabbi Moshe and Miriam Moskovitz in Kharkiv, Ukraine, knows Luda.
With her endless energy and dedication, Luda would do everything she could to help the FJC’s representatives and Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries to the city. She would make sure that the seder table was set for 80 guests on Passover, and although she was not Jewish, she would be especially joyous during every festival. She would bring food to the large sukkah the family set up outside their home on Sukkot, and she would stay to help out on Simchat Torah, when the last guests often didn’t leave until 2 a.m.
Every morning at 8 a.m., Luda would arrive at the Moskovitz home after traveling for more than an hour from Tsirkunoy, her little village on the outskirts of the city. Except on Feb. 24, after being with the family for 26 years, Luda didn’t make it to work.
That morning, the crisis in Ukraine began, setting the stage for months to come.
After a few hours, she called Miriam Moskovitz, her voice desperate. She couldn’t leave her home at Tsirkunoy. According to Luda, the village was without power and she was hiding underground in the basement of her small home.
A few days later, they spoke again. Luda told Miriam, that her neighbor had been killed and a blast shattered the windows in Luda’s home, adding that her phone was just about out of battery.
Then the line went dead.
Missing for Months
For two and a half months, no one could reach Luda. Her phone was no longer working and no one could access Tsirkunoy.
As supplies in the city of Kharkiv grew scarce, Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, who for more than 32 years has served as the chief rabbi in the city, began an emergency campaign. He worked to send out desperately needed food and medicines to hundreds of homes and hired buses to evacuate people from the city’s synagogue, even as people streamed into the building seeking shelter in the basement.
The Moskovitzes—who had evacuated to Israel with members of their community—fielded thousands of messages and calls for help. They did what they could to help working day and night.
There was, however, no word from Luda.
Then last week, news came that villages in the Kharkiv region could be reached again. The names of these small villages would not mean much to many, but Miriam Moskovitz waited anxiously to see if and when Luda’s village would once again emerge.
This week, the news came: Tsirkunoy can also be reached.
Moskovitz knew this was the time to find out if Luda was OK, the question was how.
Andrei, a Chabad volunteer who, since the start of the crisis, has driven around Kharkiv delivering critical supplies of food and medicine to those in need, said he was willing to go to Tsirkunoy and check on the village, and, of course, Luda.
With a car full of humanitarian supplies from the Jewish community of Kharkiv, Andrei set out on a road that no one would have dared travel just days earlier. He arrived at a checkpoint, and after showing that he was bringing humanitarian help from the synagogue in Kharkiv, was allowed in.
Andrei was one of the first volunteers with aid to reach Tsirkunoy. He stopped his car in the village center, opened the back of the car, and began handing out care packages to the villagers who were just getting their first taste of freedom in months.
Then he drove on to Luda’s home, where he found her alive. She was pale, and clearly emotional after such a traumatic past few months, but Luda was thrilled to see him and to hear that the Moskovitzes were thinking of her. She even recorded a video message to the family on Andrei’s phone, telling them she looks forward to the day when she will return to their home on Sadova Street.
Andrei left Luda with food, medicine, gas, and other essentials, and returned to Kharkiv and the synagogue. It would soon once again be time to deliver hot meals to those in need.
Based on an article by Faygie Levy Holt | Chabad.org