Neil Katz: On the Ground in Moldova

family living in Moldova

I recently was privileged to have the opportunity to participate in the JDC Moldova Fly-In with the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). JDC is the leading Jewish humanitarian organization doing work in more than 70 countries.

Given my love for our partner city Odesa, and as one of The Associated’s Baltimore-Odesa Partnership Ambassadors, I felt the need to see firsthand what was going on in this part of the world and how the war was affecting my dear friends from Odesa and throughout Ukraine.  

Well, to say the least, it was quite sobering.

I met with a family living in a run-down, 5th floor walk-up apartment provided to them by JDC.  Thankfully, they were safe and out of harm’s way – but they were scared and fearful of what would happen to them in the future. The mother, two sons and mother-in-law journeyed out of Odesa by bus since they didn’t have transportation of their own. They carried with them three suitcases – that was it. They crossed the border into Moldova not knowing anyone, not knowing where they would stay and with very little money to pay for food and basic necessities. 

The husband, a car mechanic, had to stay back in Odesa as was required. He was desperately looking for work so he could send them money – but work has been impossible to find. It was gut wrenching listening to the mother tell their story. That said, she hugged us and said how thankful she was for our help as tears streamed down her face. 

We also met an older gentleman that was living in a small hotel room where JDC rented rooms for refugees to reside. He was so appreciative of our help – but he seemed so sad and so lost. 

And finally, we heard from a JDC representative that was still living in Odesa. She told us that since there is no electricity, there is no heat – so she goes to sleep every night fully clothed. She and her family sleep in total darkness fearful of being robbed or bombed. And with no electricity, it is difficult finding places to charge her phone so she can communicate with loved ones back home, like her elderly parents. 

Neil Katz

On a more positive note, we visited the ORT school in Moldova. World ORT runs a vast number of schools focused on providing a top tier education driven by Jewish values. The school in Moldova was incorporating Ukrainian refugees into their school.

Back in Odesa, we learned that the ORT school there was still operational with the help of a generator provided by The Associated. Seeing the kids happy and smiling and not worrying about what is going on in the world around them was comforting.

Thankfully, the Jewish community of Baltimore and The Associated raised millions of dollars through the Ukraine Emergency Fund to support our partner agencies throughout Ukraine and throughout our partner city, Odesa.  

I was grateful to see how the food, clothing, housing, mental health support, medical supplies and emergency support services have helped immensely.  

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