First housing project for elderly righteous launches in Belarus

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

First housing project for elderly righteous launches in Belarus

British-Israeli activist Jonny Daniels helps raise tens-of-thousands to help 90-year-old Lyubov Arkhiptsova-Volchek, who saved a Jewish girl, 11, in Belarus during the Shoah

Lyubov Volchek
Lyubov Volchek

In 1998, the now 90-year-old Lyubov Arkhiptsova-Volchek was recognised as a Righteous Among the Nations – Israel’s title for non-Jews it recognised for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust – for helping hide her 11-year-old Jewish friend from the Nazis.

Today Arkhiptsova-Volchek lives in abject poverty in Belarus.

“There’s no indoor toilet. The place is falling apart,” Jonny Daniels, a British-Israeli activist and head of the Warsaw-based From the Depths organisation, said about her home. “She wears coats indoors in winter because the place drops below freezing temperatures. She needs to find blocks of wood for heating. It’s a disgrace.”

So From the Depths — a group that raises Holocaust awareness and has created other programs for survivors and their rescuers — arranged for an upgrade for Arkhiptsova-Volchek. As a part of the world’s first housing project for Righteous Among the Nations, she will move into a newly renovated apartment in a building across the street from the synagogue in Babruysk with the help of $50,000 that Daniels has raised for the initiative. Most of the donations came from an online fundraising campaign that features a video of Arkhiptsova-Volchek at her home.

Arkhiptsova-Volchek is one of only two Righteous to move into the building at first, but the goal is to house more of the rescuers who have fallen into poverty since the war.

Jonny Daniels (second left) with Righteous Among the Nations in Poland. Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg is third from the right.

The city’s rabbi, Shaul Hababo, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, confirmed that he is part of the project.

“The plan is to have them live in greater comfort, but also involve them in community life so they don’t feel lonely,” Hababo said of the soon-to-be residents, who are scheduled to move in this summer following some renovations to the building that include making it more accessible to very elderly people.

Babruysk was once one of the world’s largest shtetls, but its Jewish population was nearly annihilated in the Holocaust.

Lyubov Volchek

In 1941, Arkhiptsova-Volchek and her late mother rescued Olga Shulman, an 11-year-old Jewish girl who went to school with Arkhiptsova-Volchek in the Babruysk suburb of Hlusk. Shulman escaped the firing squads that murdered her family that year and came for shelter to Arkhiptsova-Volchek’s home, where Arkhiptsova-Volchek was living in poverty with her parents and three siblings.

They hid Shulman in a shed in their yard. When Nazi raids became more frequent, they sent Shulman to other relatives before again hiding her in their home. Shulman survived the Holocaust thanks to her saviours’ efforts, according to Yad Vashem.

Babruysk has several hundred Jews — a relatively sizable number for a city outside the Minsk region, where most of Belarus’ approximately 8,500 Jews are concentrated.

The apartments will remain at the disposal of Babruysk’s Jewish Community after they are no longer used by the rescuers and “will be used to help people in need from the community,” Hababo said.

“It’s late,” he added, “but it’s not too late to show gratitude.”

Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

read more: