Mina, 85, has lived alone in her apartment in Kiev for 44 years. Her only family, two cousins who live in Israel and California, call her but do not visit often. Yet Mina does not lack companionship, due to her involvement with Chesed.
The Federation-funded Chesed network of social services agencies, spread throughout the former Soviet Union, is a lifeline to thousands of Jews in these countries.
The social worker from Chesed who looks after Mina and a group of other seniors in Kiev makes sure she has someone to help her do laundry, go to the grocery store, and clean her apartment. “We are like one family,” she says. “Our social worker is a very restless person; he will always call to make sure about this and that.”
Mina struggles financially, she says that without Chesed she would not be able to make ends meet. “You receive a small pension, and it is impossible to live off of this pension and pay utility bills,” she says.
The Ukrainian government supplies food packages, but these packages are not tailored to individual needs. “At this age you can’t have certain foods,” Mina explains. Chesed gives her and the other seniors in the program gift cards so they can choose their own food at the grocery store. It also provides them with matzo on Passover.
Although she has lived by herself for so many years, Mina is not lonely. “You see, I worked as a teacher,” she says, gesturing to her full bookshelves. “I am used to books being my friends and they still are my friends.”
Besides helping Mina with basic necessities, Chesed provides her with activities, such as lectures, concerts, and holiday programs, as well as transportation to and from these events. “It might be impossible for us to live without spiritual support,” she reflects.