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US group rushes to aid 15 Righteous Among Nations in Ukraine after Russia invasion

20 4 1

JTA — After Russia invaded Ukraine early in the morning of February 24, millions of Ukrainians suddenly had their lives upended. The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous was concerned with 15 of them.

That’s how many Ukrainians remained alive from the foundation’s tally of “Righteous Gentiles,” non-Jews who risked their own lives to save Jews during the Holocaust 80 years ago.

The foundation doles out money to people certified to have helped Jews worldwide each year and had sent the first installment of $1,000 in early February. But it quickly became clear that the elderly Ukrainians couldn’t wait until later in the year for their next check.

“We are at war,” read an email delivered within hours of the invasion from the family of one 93-year-old. “People are leaving their homes looking for shelter [and] they are left without water and food. Shops are closed. Everyone is leaving for safe places indefinitely. If there is any way to help our family financially, we will be very grateful to you. Forgive us. With best wishes, Oksana’s family. Peace to all of us…”

Stanlee Stahl, the foundation’s executive vice president, quickly shared the email with her board and it agreed to fast-track the rest of the year’s funding — $2,000 each — to the 15 rescuers in Ukraine.

That decision set off a feverish effort to transfer cash across international borders at a time of massive upheaval. The foundation needed to find people who weren’t necessarily where they always had been, to navigate around disruptions in Ukraine’s banking and communications systems, and to verify that the money was going to the right place.

First, the foundation realized it needed to reach families by phone, because its typical mode of communicating by email did not feel reliable. But because of the decreasing number of living rescuers, the group no longer had a Russian speaker on staff. So it sought a Russian-speaking volunteer to call the rescuers for whom it had phone numbers.

When the foundation announced its need, Dimitri Zolotkovsky, an accountant in New York City who grew up in Kyiv, learned about it from his........

© The Times of Israel

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