A seder in Odessa

April 20, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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While tens of thousands of Jews have fled Ukraine since the start of the war, the majority of Jews still remain.

Most elderly Jews are too frail to leave and do not want to be split up from their family or leave the only home they know. For some, the journey out of the country is simply too terrifying a prospect or it is simply too dangerous to venture out.

Seder in Odessa

Life inside Ukraine is largely dependent on where one is located. For example, if we are speaking about Western Ukraine, where there are currently less tensions, our clients can still use bank and food cards to access necessary food and medicine, there is money in the atm machines and the supermarkets are mostly stocked with food and supplies. In Western Ukraine, JDC is also able to provide homecare services in full to vulnerable elderly clients.

In Southern Ukraine, the city of Odesa is preparing for an assault. Barricades can be seen in the streets and a curfew was introduced during evenings and weekends, but even still – most shops are open, ATMs have cash, and our clients can use their bank cards, and continue to receive homecare services in full. Mykolaiv, a roughly one hour drive from Odessa, has been under shelling recently and has seen some street fighting on the city’s outskirts. Many shops are still open and functioning, but medications are mostly unavailable. That is why our Hesed social service centre in Odessa helps Mykolaiv colleagues with purchasing medications and personal hygiene items. The homecare services are reduced there, but still provided to all vulnerable clients. And we even distributed matzah and food sets to clients in that city in the lead up to Passover.

In a city like Kharkiv, which suffered serious shelling over a few weeks, and where tensions are now rising again with increased attacks and shelling, we expect to see an increase in evacuation requests. Those shops in Kharkiv, which were not destroyed or not in the heavily shelled areas – sell food, and accept bank cards. However, medications continue to be problematic to obtain. Our homecare services are now provided to over 50% of the usual caseload in the city. In Kyiv, which has seen a lot of shelling and intense fighting, life is getting back to normal, stores are open, food is available. It is inspiring to hear that even in such places our home care workers sometimes sleep at the home of their client, so they wouldn’t be alone.

 In places that are now under occupation, like in Mariupol, the conditions are unimaginable as I am sure you have seen in media coverage. In such locations there is an overall deterioration of the humanitarian situation as fighting in the city continues. There are very scarce quantities of food and water and no money in the atm machines. The southern city of Kherson has already been under occupation for several weeks. Many shops and pharmacies are closed, meaning medications are completely unavailable. Even so, homecare services are provided to all vulnerable clients and our Hesed social service centre continues to provide material support via food packages stockpiled before the war and obtained later on in cooperation with the local Rabbi.

Even as the war carries on, JDC has been able to continue the majority of its homecare efforts for the elderly, provide access to food through JDC debit cards and distribute humanitarian aid sent to our social service centres through our staff and volunteers. Many elderly in Ukraine are able to stay connected with Hesed staff and friends on their smartphones, as well as take part in online activities, including Passover and other religious and cultural programs, thanks to a virtual platform we launched during the pandemic to keep people connected and ensure remote care.
Report from JDC The Joint

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