‘God Has Kept Me Alive’
Katerina remembers when her small town in Ukraine had a thriving Jewish community. She remembers the synagogue. She remembers her parents when her parents were still alive. Katerina remembers those days.
But 96-year-old Katerina is the last Jew left in the town. Alone, frail, and in poor health, this precious Jewish widow has nothing left, except for painful memories.
Before World War II, Katerina’s mother got sick, and the 11-year-old girl had to take her place doing backbreaking work on a Soviet communal farm. The Nazis invaded a few years later, marching the town’s Jews across a bridge, shooting each one as they crossed. Katerina walked in terror, knowing what lay ahead certain death. Just as she was about to cross, soldiers bombed the bridge and the killing stopped. Soldiers rescued Katerina and her loved ones, defeating the Nazis on that bridge.
The war continued. Terrified that the Nazis would take Katerina and kill her, her father found a non-Jewish Ukrainian boy and begged her to marry him as her only chance to survive. Katerina did not want to marry this boy but she listened to her father and did what he asked. After she was married they could see what was going on in the street from the window the shooting continued. In the evenings they found bodies in the street. Sometimes Katerina found her relatives or friends.
The Nazis did not take Katerina, but instead sent her back to the fields and forced her to do backbreaking labour. Meanwhile, Katerina became pregnant had a baby boy. Just a few hours after giving birth, separated from her son, Katerina went back to the fields to work.
“I was crying for my son,” Katerina remembers. “They would just feed him water with sugar twice a day.”
In 1945, soldiers again saved Katerina and her son from hunger, as the war came to an end. Just as they saved her life on the bridge, they brought Katerina a blanket, clothing, and milk for her son.
And today, you again are keeping Katerina alive, sending her healthy food to eat through IFCJ Canada. This knowledge overwhelms her with emotion, that the food boxes and items like warm gloves come from you.
“They saved my life. I would like to send blessings and thanks from the bottom of my heart to all the people.” Katerina says.
“If I die this evening, I will know that God has kept me alive so that I can be saved again. I was saved in the beginning of my life and now you are saving me at the end of my life.”