The Fellowship’s Ami Farkas visits Vilmer who receives monthly food packages and weekly visits from a Fellowship volunteer and learns about his life growing up in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and how The Fellowship helps him today.
Through my work with The Fellowship, I have met several elderly people who survived the Nazis’ Siege of Leningrad in 1941 in which over a million people perished inside the confined city walls and I sometimes wonder how many of them are left.
Professor Vilmer lives in a tiny one-room apartment in Ashkelon, Israel, and says that the monthly food cards he receives through our ministry “keeps me alive.”
Born in 1934 in Belarus, Professor Vilmer is one of the few remaining survivors and a living testimony of the tragic Siege of Leningrad.
I met the professor in his apartment on a sunny afternoon. He was a true gentleman, greeting me in his best clothes, his hair combed, and his eyes sharp. The professor spoke in broken Hebrew, but through a translator we managed to communicate.
“The Fellowship saves lives, and I would not have anything to eat if not for you,” he said. Professor Vilmer was the only member of his family who survived the siege. What happened to the rest of his family only God knows, but through no small miracle, Vilmer gained an education and became a scientist after the war.
“I became an expert in ground magnetic studies,” Professor Vilmer said. “Unfortunately, because I was a Jew living in the former Soviet Union (FSU), I never received the credit my work deserved, while my colleagues went on to receive Nobel Prizes and other awards. I had to be happy just to stay alive and to have work.”
I have interviewed dozens of elderly Jews who lived in the FSU after WWII, and one of the major themes I have heard over and over is how hard it was to get into universities.
Skipping a few decades in his life, Vilmer began to talk about his move to Israel. “I moved to Israel in 1994 with my wife, who passed away in 1997. It was our dream to live here in Israel, and I thank God my wife got to live her final days in the Holy Land.
“Life is difficult no matter where you are, but here in Israel people care about you,” Vilmer said. “The Fellowship has been here for me throughout these years where I cannot work and earn any money. The monthly food basket is a lifesaver. Thank you for all you have done for me.”