Living with Pain and Hunger
Irina and her mother live in Ukraine, just five minutes from their local Jewish centre, yet for the two women, it may as well be miles away...
Irina and her mother live in Ukraine, just five minutes from their local Jewish centre, yet for the two women, it may as well be miles away. Irina suffers from painful ulcers, and her mother is bedbound, unable to leave her room, much less her apartment. Even Irina rarely goes out, as walking exacerbates her condition. The women’s isolation is especially hard given their active past.
Irina’s mother, Inna, was a prominent lawyer and was married to a famous stage actor. Throughout her life she was pressured to either leave law or leave Judaism, but she clung to both, enduring expulsion from a legal group and much discrimination before eventually earning the respect of her colleagues.
Irina too was the victim of anti-Semitism and communist discrimination. A beloved high-school literature teacher, Irina had a knack for winning the hearts of even the most difficult students. She started a popular literature club in her own apartment, but was soon fired by a communist principal who found Irina’s teaching methods too unconventional for a Soviet school.
After that, the only work Irina could find was at a local library, where she was relegated to shelving books - lugging heavy piles from the library’s rat-infested basement to the shelves upstairs. Her colleagues were all very anti-Semitic and tortured her constantly.
Sadly, there was no solace at home. Irina’s husband was a violent alcoholic who beat her and made her life miserable. Nevertheless, when he was arrested, Irina did her best to help him get out of jail. For years, her life was a cycle of beatings, arrests, reunifications, and a resumption of the abuse. Her husband eventually died, at the age of 45, from bronchitis he contracted during one of his prison stays.
Following her husband’s death, Irina moved in with her mother, and has been helping to care for her ever since. The two women struggle; their apartment is falling apart and they barely have money for food. Their sole income is Inna’s tiny pension of $40 a month.
The two women's only help comes from IFCJ Canada, which, with your generous gifts, provides them with food cards so they have enough to eat, medicines to help control Irina’s ulcers, and, most importantly, homecare. In addition to helping with household tasks that they can no longer do on their own, Irina’s Fellowship homecare worker helps ease the women’s loneliness and feelings of isolation. Both Irina and her mother are grateful for the extra care and support, and they now live much easier without the stress of pain and hunger.