The Least of These
“Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgment.”
A Russian poet penned those words to commemorate one of the darkest days of the Holocaust. On Yom Kippur of 1941, Nazis marched more than 30,000 Jews to a ravine outside of Kiev. As the grasses rustled, the Nazis forced them to strip. And as the trees looked on, the Nazis shot them, one by one by one.
More than 30,000 Jews died that day over 80 years ago, including Nina’s entire family. Marched into the pits at Babi Yar, Nina’s mother and father were murdered. Right alongside them, so were her beloved sister and brother, Rosa and Chaim.
Nina, hidden away at an aunt’s home, survived the massacre at Babi Yar. But her hard life only grew harder.
Nina spent her childhood hungry. And now 96 years old, this precious woman still goes hungry today. She rarely has anything to eat but bread, which she washes down with hot water she calls “tea.”
And as the Ukrainian winter descends on the shack Nina calls home, the wind and snow threaten this sweet elderly soul who can no longer chop her own firewood, who has no one to chop wood for her, and who has no money to pay for heat.
When we found Nina, she had lost hope. “I am ready for God to take me,” she said. “I am tired of this life. I am completely alone in this world and I’m tired of this loneliness and hunger.”
But seeing the food box that Fellowship friends sent warmed Nina’s heart. The gloves and socks and winter heating assistance from those same friends will surely warm her body.
And the love shown to this elderly child of God who has experienced so little love during her 90 years — from the killing fields of Babi Yar to the frigid winter of rural Ukraine — made Nina say, “This is too much.” No, it is not too much. It is the least we can do, as people of faith, for “the least of these.”