Enduring Love in Testing Times – ICEJ Homecare Assist Heroic Family

By Maxine Carlill, ICEJ AID

When the German army invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, young Anna’s father was convinced that Moscow would be occupied, and the safest place for his wife and four children would be with their grandfather nearly 200 miles away. However, as happens in the tide of war, not only was his village captured, but his house was seized as a residence for high-ranking German officers, forcing the family to live in the cellar.

Still innocent at three years old, little blond-haired, blue-eyed Anna was not afraid of the soldiers and knew nothing of war. But she did know about hunger and would sneak into the house to stand near the table, her head just showing above it. Her charm softened her enemies’ hardened hearts, so they would give her food, which she promptly shared with her mother and siblings in their underground shelter. It supplemented the potatoes and onions that Anna’s mother pulled from the frozen ground during the bitterly cold winters.

Anna’s mother must have been pregnant when she and her children were sent to the grandfather’s village because while living in these harsh conditions, a fifth baby was born. Her mother rejected the advice of well-meaning neighbors who suggested she leave in the -40F weather. A mother’s love is strong. She washed diapers in cold water, putting them around her body to dry. Anna’s father had been sent to work at an arms factory at the beginning of the war and did not know another child had been born. He even assumed that when their grandfather’s village had been taken over by the Germans, his family was likely murdered. In his despair he joined the Red Army, only to be killed at the front.

After the German army left the family home, local Fascists were afraid it had been booby-trapped and burned it to the ground. Anna’s mother, in her early thirties, fled to Kazakhstan to look for work. She worked hard, even undertaking men’s jobs to feed her children. Sometimes with a smile but often with tears, Anna recalls her mother’s overflowing heart, full of love for her children as she tried to lift them above their poverty.

Anna was instilled with her mother’s love and strength. She met and married Holocaust Survivor Evgeni, who had spent the war hiding with his family. Together, they delighted in the achievements of their only child, Julia, who—despite the ever-present antisemitism in Russia— became a professional journalist with a promising career ahead.

But Julia’s life took a drastic turn one day when serious health issues arose. Doctors made a quick decision to operate, which did not go well. From then on, her condition deteriorated, and no other treatments helped. She lost her health, work, hopes, and dreams and became fully dependent on her parents, now in their eighties. After Aliyah, Israeli doctors tried to reverse the damage to her health done back in Russia, but to no avail. Out of this challenging and heartbreaking situation, Anna has been caring for her daughter Julia with the same strength and love she received from her own mother.

For the past 20 years, icej homecare has been privileged to support this heroic family with weekly visits, nursing assistance, and supplemental support toward expenses. Anna says of their situation, “we couldn’t do it without your help. You are part of us; you have a place in our heart.”