Irina strolls through Kiev's Beiteinu Center, the program for children and families at risk in the Ukrainian capital, picking up toys, smiling at toddlers, and chatting with colleagues. Age 41, Irina works as the internally displaced persons (IDP) coordinator there, serving as a case manager for clients who've fled the violence in the east. The Center is run by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) with the support of Federations like ours.
Irina feels she is particularly effective and fulfilled in her work because her family also fled, taking one of the last trains out of Lugansk in July 2014. "People come to me and say, 'You really understand this because you've been in my situation,'" she says. "They trust me. And for me, the Jewish community means stability now, but it hasn't been an easy road.”
When she, her husband, and their two sons came to Kiev, they stayed with distant cousins who quickly hinted they were beginning to overstay their welcome. Now they have an apartment, outfitted with household supplies, clothes, and toiletries, thanks to Beiteinu. The family continues to receive winter relief, rent assistance, and psycho-social support.
But still, each day is a painful reminder of what has been lost. "My sons’ childhood stopped short," she says. "We had a car, an apartment, a country house, back in Lugansk. We are grateful for the basics, but we live with a new reality now."
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