This article was originally published on JewishMiami.org for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
Here in Miami, if the mercury dips below 70 degrees, we rush to pull out our sweaters and scarves in anticipation of cooler temperatures. It’s an exciting, but short-lived time of the year. However, winter in the Former Soviet Union is not something to look forward to for those in need.
The temperature is -27 degrees, and snow and ice have closed the roads. But a woman named Tania is riding a borrowed horse and sleigh packed with food and supplies from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s partner agency, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to Jews in need. Tania is making this hour-long trek every day for Tatiana and Bronislav who are elderly, disabled, and otherwise alone.
The FSU is home to some of the most vulnerable Jews in the world. Tens of thousands of elderly Jews in small towns dotting the region struggle to survive. During the harsh winter months, many, like Tatiana and Bronislav, live without adequate heating or even central plumbing.
That’s why Tania and hundreds of other workers and volunteers at Hesed social welfare centers, run by the JDC, go the extra mile to ensure no Jew is left behind.
When the weather is good, Tania drives her moped to their remote farm to bring supplies, cook, clean and care for the couple. And when the weather is bad, as it was for 70 straight days last winter, she loads up her brother’s horse and sleigh with supplies and makes the long trek herself. And when her brother needs his horse, she walks. For over an hour. “I could not think not to go, because they will starve,” she reflects.
Tania insists the motivation behind her selfless work is Tatiana and Bronislav themselves.
“Despite their condition, they do not lose heart! They amaze me with that,” she says. “I am doing everything for them as I would for my own relatives. I do not see any difficulties in my work; how is it possible to have hardships in the work that you love?”