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August 25, 2022

The Ukraine Crisis: 6 Months on Update


Paul Anticoni sitting on bed with elderly woman holding his hand

The Ukraine Crisis: 6 Months on Update

For six months, Ukraine has fought hard against the Russian forces attacking from the East, North and South.

For six months, the Ukrainian people have suffered immeasurably; many have lost loved ones, had their homes reduced to rubble, and their lives thrown into ruin.

For six months, the UK Jewish community has come together to stand with Ukrainians in their time of need.

Ukrainian building shelled by Russian forces

What’s happening in Ukraine?

Since the war began, almost 7 million Ukrainians have sought refuge in the arms of their neighbours, such as Poland, Romania, and Hungary. Another 7 million are internally displaced in their own country, having been forced westward by the invasion. The numbers paint a grim picture. But behind every statistic is a real person with real experiences.

This truth was brought home for me during my recent visit to Kyiv and Lviv, where I met some of the people facing the brutality of the conflict first hand. Trauma was rife, and the destruction evident; empty buildings which were once proud family homes stood like carcasses, gutted by Russian explosives. Everyone I met had a story to tell, filled with loss and incredible resilience.

The residents of western towns and cities in Ukraine have welcomed internally displaced individuals and families with open arms, providing shelter and as much food and water as they can spare. World Jewish Relief has also been responding at scale.


World Jewish Relief CEO Paul Anticoni with elderly woman in Eastern Europe

How are we responding?

Even before the invasion, we were ready to provide relief. Over the last 30 years World Jewish Relief has developed a unique presence in Ukraine, building a network of local partner charities to support elderly Jewish communities, deliver back to work programmes, and provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the 2014 hostilities.

Back in February while many other organisations scrambled to gain international access or prioritised neighbouring countries, we were able to focus our efforts inside Ukraine itself, supporting those in the hardest hit areas whose needs were greatest.

Together, with the support of the Jewish community and the superhuman efforts of our local partners, we have evacuated 5,032 people under fire, delivered 330 metric tonnes of food, and assisted an overwhelming 154,755 people affected by the conflict. I cannot tell you how proud I am of the scale, quality, and impact of our collective humanitarian action.

Closer to home, we have become one of four Government recognised matching agencies for the Homes for Ukraine scheme. We have dramatically expanded our refugee work here in the UK to support accommodation, language, and employment.

darkness of an underground bomb shelter

The future?

However, as six months turn to seven, and the suffering and devastation continue, I fear our response to the invasion has only just begun. Around this time every year I begin to worry about winter in Ukraine; our client group faces extreme cold, crippling fuel prices, and isolation in severely dilapidated homes.

But this year, I am truly horrified by the prospect of winter combined with protracted war and the fatal effects this could have on the most vulnerable. After all, the historic challenges Ukrainians face have not been halted by war; they have been intensified.

We will of course continue to respond where needs are greatest, and we will need the help of the UK Jewish community, without whom our lifesaving work would not be possible.