A Ukrainian teenager living in a remote Jewish community has been presented with a Star of David necklace donated by a British girl who read about her in the JC.
Ilona Kaplyn, 15, featured in an article in May about Krivoy Rog — a former steel mining community 200 miles from the capital Kiev — after World Jewish Relief opened a community centre in the city.
Most of Krivoy Rog’s 12,000 Jews are unemployed and live in squalid conditions with little or no support from the state.
Ilona, one of the community’s few English speakers, told our reporter how she wished Krivoy Rog could offer her more Jewish facilities, adding that she longed to buy a Star of David necklace.
Touched by the story, Abi Martinsen, of Wimborne, Dorset, decided to send her own necklace to Ilona.
“I was thinking about how lucky I was to have my Star of David and for it to be so easy to get it,” explained Abi, 14, whose family are Bournemouth Reform members.
“I said I would send it to Ilona and boxed it up.”
WJR chief executive Paul Anticoni handed over the necklace to Ilona during a recent visit to the community centre.
In a letter of thanks to Abi and her family, Ilona wrote: “I like the necklace very much. I will wear it every day. I told my friends about you and they agree you are very good and kind people. I am very happy that Paul came to Krivoy Rog.”
Mr Anticoni said: “It was really sweet. Ilona is a lovely girl and she was so moved by the whole thing.
“She thought it was incredible that a small comment led to someone being so generous. She was very emotional. A small gesture of support means a lot.”
Ilona and Abi now intend to become pen pals.