Children’s New Year cards delight Righteous Gentiles in Ukraine
By Rebecca Singer
Righteous Gentiles living in Ukraine have been delighted to receive cards made by the children at the Chigwell & Hainault shul nursery. The children made the cards as part of a Mitzvah Day activity to support a fundraising initiative by Chigwell & Hainualt Synagogue which raised an amazing £2360 to provide food parcels, emergency medication and surgery costs for Righteous Gentiles supported by World Jewish Relief.
The cards were taken to Ukraine and hand delivered by volunteers along with New Year food parcels to Righteous Gentiles living in Kyiv. The older people were amazed and delighted to discover the hand painted cards and enjoyed reading the traditional Ukrainian greetings inside.
When Anotonina, 92, read the card she was overwhelmed and sent the nursery children a message:
Dear kids, I was so happy to receive this card from a child I’ve never met. Now I know that there are people who care about me and my family and don’t ignore our difficulties. Just like during the Great War we did not ignore what was happening – we couldn’t let innocent people die. And you do the same. G-d bless you!
Antonina Mikhailova was born in 1926 in a small village outside Kyiv. She and her mother rescued and hid a Jewish family during the war when Ukraine was occupied by Nazi Germany. They hadn’t known the family but remained very close friends after the war. She is now almost 92 and has lost contact with the surviving relatives.
Antonina holding the card made by children at Chigwell & Hainualt Synagogue Nursery
Antonina got married after the war and had a son Alexander, who recently died of cancer. Her grandson Sergey is 30 years old and an engineer and works to support his grandmother on his low salary. The two of them live on less than £200 per month with £90 going towards heating, lighting and hot water. They have no other relatives and struggle to support themselves.
The food parcels are a life line for Anotonina and when she first received a package from the Jewish community and saw the good quality vegetable oil, she started crying. She looks forward to the visits and phone calls from the volunteers and she says,
My life has become brighter since I started receiving the food parcles. I can’t remember when we last had enough food in our home, let along good quality food. Now we know that Jewish people are thinking about us not only in Ukraine but also in the UK. Thank you for changing our life and for remembering about us.
Galina Alexandrovna Chernaya was born in 1934 in a small village outside Kyiv. Her parents were peasants and they had 6 children from 2 to 16 years old. In September 1941 a neighbour returned to the village from a town nearby with a Jewish wife and 2 daughters. Almost everyone knew that his wife was Jewish as her name was Revekka.
In 1942 the Police arrested Revekka. Ivan knew they would be back to take the girls and asked Galina’s parents to hid them. They agreed immediately and Galina’s father and his oldest son Fedor dug a hole in their garden, covered it with blankets and the girls spent 4 months hiding there. They told the Police Ivan had left the village and taken his daughters.
Galina reading the card sent to her by the children at Chigwell & Hainualt Synagogue Nursery
The girls could only leave their hiding place at night and Galina played with them and kept a lookout. In early 1943 the girl’s grandfather came and took them to another village where he lived and rescued them. Both Galina’s parents and her oldest brother Fedor are Righteous Gentiles, recognized by Yad Vashem.
World Jewish Relief supports older people who have been identified by the Ukrainian Government at Righteous of Ukraine or Righteous of Babi Yar. At great personal risk, these Righteous Gentiles and their families, helped Jews during the Holocaust and many of them are now living alone and in abject poverty.
World Jewish Relief provides them with food parcels four times a year and ensures they receive visits and phone calls from volunteers. The mayor of Kyiv also hosts and annual reception honouring the Righteous Gentiles and their families.