Voice of the Jewish News: A brighter vision for Ukraine’s Jews
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Voice of the Jewish News: A brighter vision for Ukraine’s Jews

This week's editorial reflects on World Jewish Relief's Pesach appeal - giving vision for elderly Jews in Ukraine

Vladimir reading one of his poems
Vladimir reading one of his poems

In Ukraine, like here, eye surgery on a cataract can be done privately.

There, a basic operation costs about £370, so not too dissimilar to here.

However, the average pension in Ukraine is less than £40 per month, so in relative terms it’s astronomical. The sad reality is that the cost of seeing is too high for most elderly Ukrainian Jews. This is where charities such as World Jewish Relief come in, especially at times like this.

This week we chronicle an optics programme for elderly Jews in the city of Kharkiv, and the charity’s corresponding Pesach appeal. Our reporter, who has family links to Ukraine, went there with WJR, seeing the work of its local partner Hesed and meeting the community. It’s thriving. Ukrainian Jews were once told to conceal their identity. Now, they embrace it.

But there, like here, the population is ageing. Catering for the impact of ever-increasing years in a poor country hit most recently by war and runaway inflation is proving tough. Money is tight and people are reluctant to ask for help. One old lady, Rimma, came to the Jewish community centre recently in glasses that were 20 years old.

Credit to the programme’s coordinators – nothing feels like charity.

It simply feels like a big community chipping in to help each other.

There are dementia classes, help for carers, home visits, even activity classes for Jewish children with physical and learning difficulties.

On the day our reporter visited, dogs were being brought in for cuddles with a small group of blind children, while next door, 27 Jews aged between 60 and 91 were engaged in an aikido class. Downstairs, in the library, a smaller group meet to share both poetry and laughter.

You can tell how active a community is by the centre’s noticeboards, and here they are stuffed full of up-to-date posters, notices, photos, reminders and thanks. There’s not a spare inch not fought for. If that’s a reflection of the health of Kharkiv’s Jewish population, all is well.

Now we just need them to be able to see.

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