February 22, 2024

A Third Freezing Winter at War in Ukraine

The Russian attack on Ukraine, which began on February 20, 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea, restarted in earnest exactly two years ago this week, on the February 24, 2022, when Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine.

Over half a million Ukrainian and Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded. According to a declassified US intelligence assessment, as of December 2023, Russia had lost 315,000 of the 360,000 troops that made up Russia’s pre-invasion ground force, and 2,200 of the 3,500 tanks.

We haven’t forgotten our commitments to the Jews of Ukraine, as well as other Jewish communities in the region. This morning I had a briefing with our partners on the ground, led by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, to hear more about Federation’s role and the impact we continue to have on the Jewish community there.

According to JDC’s statistics, as of this month, 41,000+ vulnerable Jews are receiving ongoing emergency aid, like food, medicine, homecare, and evacuation services.

Ukraine’s Jews are now sitting through their third freezing winter — bitter wind rushing through bombed-out windows, the constant threat of blackouts and heating prices that no one can afford. Prices are rising, and both physical and emotional resources are dwindling. Children are facing yet another year without regular schooling, families are struggling, and trauma is everywhere.

Federation, through our partners, has been there since day one. With your support, we launched an immediate response to the crisis, and adapted it as the conflict barreled on and needs evolved. Powered by your generosity, we brought food, medicine, and winter aid to Ukraine’s Jews. We evacuated people that needed to leave and helped refugees acclimate to their new homes. We provided — and continue to provide — emotional and physical assistance to the tens of thousands of Jews who remain in Ukraine. Recent weeks have seen severe bombing in Odesa, Kyiv, and Dnipro: Federation-supported staff often come to work in bullet proof vests. Destruction is everywhere. While Ukraine’s Jews remain strong, the conflict is taking a toll, and we intend to stand with our obligation that no Jew is left behind.One quote from this briefing that I want to share, from my awesome colleague Oksana Galkevych – “what would have happened had we not been there on the ground, ready, when the war started?” But we were ready. We’ve been on the ground for 30 years, with community resilience, welfare and renewal programs, and more. You don’t build the fire station the day the fire breaks out. You build it, and the relationships and networks and knowledge, way before, so that when the moment comes, you can rescue, and provide relief, and show the power of an organized Jewish community.

Watch this video from Ukraine native Oksana Galkevych on the work of her JDC Ukraine team.

Watch this video about a Jewish mother of two children who is an internally displaced refugee in Ukraine and credits the support of the global Jewish community for saving her family’s lives.