Ukraine: the forgotten crisis

When Gavrilov Ivanovich’s house in Stanitsa Luganskaya was bombed, he had nowhere to go. His neighbours had literally dragged him out of the wreckage of his house and he was left with nothing. Just a tiny outhouse to live in, with no heating, nowhere to cook and no family. Gavrilov, 86, had fought the Nazis; now he fights just to survive. People like Gavrilov don’t think beyond tomorrow; they just figure out how to live today.  It is only thanks to World Jewish Relief’s support, thanks to your generosity, that he is able to survive.

As the media’s attention has casually declined since the 2014 revolution, the daily struggles of Ukrainians have increased. Pre-Maidan, the exchange rate was 8 UAH to the dollar; it’s now 25 UAH. This means that the world’s poorest Jewish communities can now only afford one third of what they used to. Conversely, it also means that your donations go three times further.

Over the past few months, we have increasingly focused on how we can maximise our resources in the conflict zones to help those most impacted by the crisis, like Gavrilov. For example, our project in the buffer zone of Donetsk and Luhansk delivers food, hygiene kits and other basic essentials like nappies and toilet paper to 300 people.

When I was in Zaporozhye recently, I met an older Jewish couple who had fled Luhansk, leaving everything behind. Thanks to your support, the Jewish community in Zaporozhye is able to support them, house and feed them, as we are doing for 3,500 Jewish internally displaced people in Zaporozhye.  

Many pensioners like this couple are also forced to support their grown-up children who have lost their livelihoods. However small, they at least get a pension, whereas their children have lost jobs and cannot find work in the depressed economic situation and in unfamiliar towns. They face the unenviable choice of either accepting financial support from their parents’ meagre pensions, or joining the army.

You may have read that Ukraine has a new, Jewish Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groysman. Groysman's openness about his background isn't customary in a country where anti-Semitism and Communist repression made it undesirable for politicians to be seen as ‘too Jewish’. Leaders within Ukrainian Jewry have pointed to Groysman’s ascent as proof of the absence of serious anti-Semitism in Ukraine, whilst Russia has pointed to the country’s alleged anti-Semitism to justify its conflict with Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea. Whatever the case, life for Ukraine’s Jews remains incredibly tough, with many surviving day-by-day thanks to your support.

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