Hanukkah for the Holy Land’s Heroes
“I was born in 1934, in a small shtetl in Ukraine,” says Olga, using the Yiddish word for the small towns that existed in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. “It was mostly Jews who lived in our shtetl. Until I was 7, I lived with my mother, father, brother, and sister. We had a good family. Then World War II came.”
Like so many of the impoverished elderly IFCJ Canada helps, we hear of happier times… until the war came. It’s a refrain heard over and over as we help Holocaust survivors, precious children of God still haunted by the horrors they experienced when they were children.
And the horrors of the Holocaust still haunt Olga, who lost her mother, her sister, and her brother. After nearly dying from diphtheria, Olga was found by her father when he survived the war, as well.
The two returned home to Ukraine, where Olga’s father remarried. After losing most of her family because of their faith, Olga was still teased her whole childhood for being Jewish… and also kept from worshiping freely during the decades of Soviet rule, as the only Jewish traditions she held onto were those her mother had practiced before the Nazis came.
After losing her father and her half-brother to the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster—a disaster which also affected her own health—Olga at last made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. In Israel she can now freely practice her faith. And in Israel, Olga is helped by friends of The Fellowship, especially after a recent fall that left her injured.
“I want to say thank you very much to The Fellowship. I definitely couldn’t have made it without your help. You do so much for me,” says Olga, showing off groceries brought by The Fellowship. “A wonderful Fellowship volunteer girl named Lenochka comes to see me every week. She’s such a nice girl. She’s so caring and kind.”
Caring and kind friends like you are why so many vulnerable elderly—those who perhaps once lived in shtetls and survived the Holocaust, like Olga—are able to forget the hard lives they have lived and still live.