Ukraine: The Personal Stories of Those Left Behind

Ever since the horrific crisis in Ukraine broke out, the Federation of Jewish Communities (FJC) is standing at the forefront of the evacuation and humanitarian aid efforts, saving numerous lives across the country and providing unprecedented amounts of lifesaving relief to tens of thousands. Apart from the tens of thousands of Jewish refugees now scattered worldwide and daily assisted by the FJC, hundreds of thousands have remained behind. Here are some of their stories.

Hope for an Independent Future

This is the story of Genya Shoylikovna Druzhinina, an 83-year-old Jewish lady from the city of Mykolayiv, who as a small child experienced all the hardships of World War II. Her family miraculously managed to escape the Holocaust. Later on, she graduated from medical school in Mykolayiv, where she worked as a nurse for more than 36 years.

Anna, her daughter, has dedicated her life to Jewish education. She works as a secretary at the Mykolayiv “Or Menachem” Jewish school and has stayed with her family in the city despite the danger. “My mother” Anna explains, “led an active lifestyle, but an accident happened and, as a result, the neck of her femur was fractured. An operation was needed to fix it, but we simply didn’t have money for the postoperative treatment. There was nowhere, also, to buy walkers for rehabilitation, due to the crisis, destruction, lack of water, and the fact that all the specialized medical equipment stores across the city are closed.”

FJC’s Life Changer initiative came into the picture and managed to save her. They located a hospital able to perform the operation and paid for it, found walkers, and made sure she has everything she needs to get back on her feet.

Calming Life-Risking Pressure

This is the story of Kuchma Valentina Mykolayivna, an 83-year-old Jewish lady, originally from Lugansk, who in the past was a professional gymnast. Now, unfortunately, she lives by herself in destitution. In 2014, after the crisis in Eastern Ukraine broke out, she became a refugee and moved to Kharkiv hoping for some peace and quiet. However, tragedy hit again, and her new home was attacked and destroyed.

Valentina suffers from chronic hypertension. Her high blood pressure is life-threatening and requires continuous treatment. With no place to call home, making her condition even worse, FJC’s Life Changer initiative came to the rescue. They provided Valentina with an affordable place to live, financial aid,  a visit to a professional cardiologist, supplied necessary medication, medical equipment, nutritious kosher food, and volunteers to help her rehabilitate.  Her life has been saved.

Staying Courageous Despite Everything

The Bessonova-Bujurak family is a young Jewish family from Mykolayiv. Although many people fled their homes in order to save their little children, some encountered such difficult obstacles that they are still unable to evacuate. This is precisely the case of Elena Viktorovna Bessonova and her two children, Alexey Bujurak, 10 years old, and Misha Bujurak, 6 years old.

“We live in Ukraine, in the city of Mykolayiv!” Elena relates. “Before the crisis, we all lived a calm and happy life! My husband and I went to work, the children went to school and kindergarten, to sports, acrobatics, chess… But on February 24, at five o’clock in the morning, we were awakened by devastating noise! It was terrible, and since then the horror has continued! My husband and I lost our jobs, our children are without school, kindergarten, or extracurricular activities.”

“When we go to bed, we don’t know if we’ll wake up alive… A lot of our friends left the city, but we stayed because my eldest son Sergey is here. He is 28 years old and serves in the marines. My daughter-in-law and my 6-year-old grandson Dima are also here. We chose to stay in the city, but we live in constant fear.”

“FJC’s Mykolayiv Jewish community and Life Changer initiative provide our family with great help and support! We get help with food, medications, and even drinking water, which has been lacking in our city for three weeks, due to damage to the water supply. Every Shabbat, we get fresh, delicious challahs. The kids love it and so do we! This help is simply invaluable. We are very grateful to you all for your help and support for us and our children, in such difficult times. Thank you so much for your help and care!”

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