Victory Day at Montefiore: a day of unity

May 17, 2018 by Sarah Bendetsky
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Just as the Anzac Day is one of Australia’s most important commemorations, so too, the 9 May Victory Day* captures a special place in the hearts of Russian-speaking veterans and community members.

Alexander Burkoy, Victor Avrutis, Yakov Margulis, Isaak Droukman and Yehuda Leon Bondar performing for the Montefiore residents

With that in mind, the volunteers of Subbotnik, a local Jewish NFP, decided to spend the day with the senior residents of Melbourne’s Montefiore, among them many veterans, Holocaust survivors and ‘children of the war’.

The morning started with an array of pampering activities offered by volunteers from all over Melbourne and included hair styling, facials, manicures, gentle massage and make-up sessions, much loved by the residents.

Soon after, a talented photographer Ksenia Belova Palmieri arrived with a mobile photo studio equipment to create extraordinary portraits of each resident.

Demonstrating their war medals in front of the camera while holding the black-and-white images of their loved ones who perished in the war, it was a moving experience for the veterans and the volunteers alike.

Veteran resident Tovya Levit addressing the audience before the concert

“The idea behind the portraits was to make the residents of Montefiore nursing home feel special in the occasion of Victory Day. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had in my photographic career. Hearing all the heartbreaking and courageous stories from the survivors of the Second World War was simply unbelievable and extremely touching. Their eyes said it all,” Ksenia Belova Palmieri said.

Volunteers from left: Miriam Dolnikov, Sarah Bendetsky, Maria Gelvan and Alona Krapivin

Later that afternoon, another group of volunteers gathered the residents for a heart-warming concert. An acclaimed violinist Alex Burkoy and musicians Isaak Droukman, Yakov Margulis, Victor Avrutis, Leon Yehuda Bondar and a budding singer Marina Yut entertained the audience with the well-known war songs.

Isaac Droukman, the head of the Australian Southern Cross Bard Club said, “We were honoured to participate in the Victory Day Concert at Montefiore. I’ve never seen such an appreciative audience; when we began to sing, many of the residents sang along. At first, they were a bit shy, but soon we found our common voices and the distance between the audience and the performers disappeared completely. It was a deeply emotional, bonding time.”

After the concert, gifts, desserts, flowers and cards decorated by children, and even customised copper medals ordered for the occasion, were given out to the seniors to thank them for sacrificing their lives, health and everything they had for our peaceful future.

“From all of the residents and the Montefiore staff, I would like to say a big thank you for organising the Victory Day proceedings,” Simon Avrutis, Facility Manager of Montefiore Homes, said. “The elders absolutely loved what was on offer! I feel fortunate to be part of a community that has organisations such as Subbotnik providing great events for the seniors in the Jewish community.”

“The generation of the veterans and victims of the war is ageing and needs our support. I believe that the best way to acknowledge their amazing contributions is not about sharing a beautifully designed post on social media once or twice a year. It’s about spending the time with them on the Victory Day, ANZAC Day and Yom HaShoah, asking them questions, bringing home-made treats and showing that we remember about them on these days and throughout the year,” Sarah Bendetsky, Co-founder of Subbotnik, said.

Subbotnik extends its tremendous gratitude to volunteers, sponsors and community partners who made this event a reality:


Pampering team:Ashley Kahan, Emanuel Banakh, Ridhima D’Khanna, Alina Zamel-Well, Margarita Bond, Vikki Friedman, Jayde Louise Crosland, Jenny Medvedev, Renae Ciaglia


Photography and videography:Helen Thompson, Ksenia Belova Palmieri, from Ksenia Belova Photography, Natalia and Andrej Kudriavcev from Owl Photography


Gifts and cakes: Alona Krapivin from Alona’s Catering, Jenny Medvedev, Victoria Iflyand, Marina Prostakova and the Russian Sunday School ‘Leader’, Masha Gelvan, Miriam Dolnikov, Bayla Dolnikov, Yossel Dolnikov and Avi Bendetsky


The Concert:Lucy Zoubkova, Isaac Droukman and the Bard Club ‘Southern Cross’, Leon Yehuda Bondar, Yakov Margulis, Victor Avrutis, Alexander Burkoy, Marina Yut


Sponsors:BAS & MORE Bookkeeping and Virtual CFO, Click Clack Cabinets, AAW Cabinet Makers


Community Partners:The Australian Forum of Speaking Jewry, Moishe House Melbourne-Kangarusski, Jewish Care Victoria


* Victory Day – A Veterans Day that occurs on 9 May and commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.

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