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Letter from Kiev

אינה מרקוביץ

* (Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Inna Markovich, a rebbitzin in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, wrote me last night as follows:

"Shalom Sivan. My husband had been an Israeli Air Force pilot for 12 years when we decided to go as Chabad emissaries to Kiev with our seven children. Today my husband is the chief rabbi of Kiev, and we have been on this mission for 21 years. We had a flourishing community here until the first whiff of war was in the air a month ago. Since then, most of the prosperous residents of Kiev have left the country. Those who remain are mainly the elderly (pensioners in Ukraine receive seventy dollars a month), the sick, Holocaust survivors, and average hardworking people. We are distributing more and more hot meals and food baskets. We are also responsible for a school and several kindergartens, including a kindergarten for autistic children, the first of its kind in Ukraine.

In such a situation, we could not just leave everything and return to Israel. We decided to stay and not to abandon those in need. This morning, when the bombardment started, the Jews began to congregate in our community center. There are no bomb shelters in Kiev and no directives on how to proceed in emergency situations.

Meanwhile, we have enough mattresses and food in storage to take care of everyone, but we do not know how long these supplies will be sufficient. We have had to hire armed guards because of the possibility of robbery and looting since there are simply no police. We have embarked on a fund-raising campaign for the first time. As the sirens and explosions are heard, we are trying to encourage and take care of all those who continue to stream into the community center.

In a little while, Shabbat will arrive. We did not anticipate welcoming 'Shabbat Mevarchim,' on which we bless the new month of Adar Beit, in this manner. For 'when Adar enters, joy increases.' As we know, there is special power in those moments when Shabbat candles are lit. I would ask every woman reading these words to remember us in her prayers. Shabbat shalom from Kiev."

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