‘I can stay alive, brighter days will come,’ says Holocaust survivor stuck in Kyiv

With around half of capital’s residents said to have fled, housebound Ludmila, 85, lauds continuing devotion of carer Anna, who says; ‘We hug when we’re very scared’

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Anna and Ludmila in Kyiv, March 2022. (Courtesy, Joint Distribution Committee)
Anna and Ludmila in Kyiv, March 2022. (Courtesy, Joint Distribution Committee)

With around half of Kyiv’s population having fled since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the capital’s mayor, the ability to care for those who are too old or sick to leave becomes ever more exacting.

Just under two million of the city’s three million-plus residents have gone, Vitali Klitschko said Thursday.

Ludmila, 85, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who is unable to leave her third-floor apartment in Kyiv, is one of the lucky ones — for the moment.

Anna, a 40-year-old home care worker employed by the Joint Distribution Committee’s Hesed social services organization, with funding from the Claims Conference, is continuing to give her devoted care.

“I can’t accept this war in my head. I feel frustration, but I’m not alone,” Ludmila said. “My lovely Anna didn’t leave me. The support I get is extremely important. I have food that Anna brings me, and I have the opportunity to stay alive and believe in brighter days to come.”

Despite having her own family to look after, Anna shops for Ludmila every morning and stays with her until just before the city curfew is imposed.

“Ludmila lives on the third floor, and she can’t move downstairs because of her legs,” said Anna. “So when the sirens sound, we slowly make our way to the bathroom or hallway. We feel more safe there.”

She added: “We hear the sounds of blasts very often, but we support each other with hugs when we’re very scared. We hold each other close and we pray for peace.”

The JDC operates 18 Hesed offices across Ukraine, many of which have had to close physically since the start of the war.

Where possible, staff are continuing to work from home while those social workers still in the country, like Anna, are risking life and limb to continue helping the Jewish elderly and infirm.

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