Ukraine 28 Apr 2015 00:00
Only a few thousand Jews have remained in the port city of Mariupol. A mere 12 kilometers east of the city, fighting rages between pro-Russian separatists and volunteer battalions struggling to keep the town of Shirokino. The Chabad Lubavitch organization tries to keep track of its members still within the city while providing aim to the numerous Jewish families in need. Volunteers gather each day at the local Chabad center in central Mariupol helping to pack foodstuffs in plastic bags for local Jewish families who have decided to remain in the port city.
Natasha Ralko's windows were blown out while she was sitting in the living room of her apartment with her daughter and 8-month-old infant. Her kitchen is now heavily damaged. Ralko believes the death toll in eastern Ukraine is much higher than reported. Mariupol’s Jewish community is spread out, and some members, like Natalia Lavushko and her husband, Grigory, live on the city’s outskirts—areas that would be early targets in the event of a new offensive. The Lavushkos have stopped renovating their modest house because Ukraine’s currency devaluation has eaten into their meager income.
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