World Jewish Relief has helped nearly 275,000 people in war-torn Ukraine

The charity has published a report of its activities in Ukraine since February 2022


WJR Chair Maurice Helfgott speaks to attendees at WJR's annual dinner (Credit: WJR)

World Jewish Relief’s work in Ukraine has helped nearly 275,000 people since war broke out, the charity announced this week.

To mark the two-year anniversary, the organisation has published a report detailing its activities after the Russian invasion.

According to the publication, available online, WJR has provided some 244,156 people with emergency food, helped 28,452 people survive the winter, provided medical care to over 41,000 people, and repaired 556 homes across 381 hard-to-reach towns and cities across Ukraine. The charity has also been supporting over 20,000 Ukrainian refugees, including thousands in the UK.

Aleksey Tolkachov, director of WJR’s Ukrainian partners, Dreamland, said: “Over the past two years, I have seen thousands of eyes of grateful Ukrainians. I remember their tears of joy, their sparkling hugs, their trembling hands as they accepted humanitarian aid.

"I remember how hungry people in Chernihiv literally fought for bread and food, fearing that the humanitarian aid would not be enough for them. I remember how in Kherson, after the floods, aid was delivered by boats to villages cut off from the world. It is hard to describe what a source of happiness an ordinary chocolate bar can be for a child who is tired of hiding from shells in basements.”

He said that thanks to “the flexibility” of WJR, his charity was able “to personalise the needs of the affected population. We distributed not only food and hygiene kits, but we also met specific requests. Some people needed construction materials to repair their homes, some needed toys for a child, some needed medicine.”

Paul Anticoni, chief executive of World Jewish Relief, said it had been “two years since the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Two years that have turned people’s worlds upside down. Two years where millions of people have been internally displaced and millions more have left the country and become refugees...two years of war.”

WJR, which was started in 1933 to support Jews escaping Nazi-occupied Europe and now gives aid to people in 23 countries, focuses its activities on four key areas: humanitarian support, supporting older people, livelihood recovery, and building stronger families.

Last week WJR held its annual dinner at the Roundhouse, attended by over 600 guests to raise funds for their continued work.

The evening was hosted by TV and radio presenter, Kirsty Young, who shared with the audience, which included Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis and private secretary to His Majesty the King Sir Clive Alderton, how “deeply moved” she was by World Jewish Relief’s work after she met and interviewed the late Sir Ben Helfgott, who was brought to the UK as a Holocaust survivor by World Jewish Relief’s forerunner, the Central British Fund.

She lauded the Jewish community’s “generosity, warmth and compassion”, and praised the work of WJR across the world, its focus on climate resilience and prioritising the needs of women and girls.

In a keynote speech, Dame Melinda Simmons, former UK ambassador to Ukraine, said: “This is a war for Ukraine’s existence. It is grinding, exhausting, and, crucially, it is a hybrid war that attacks not just with missiles, but also by burning grain fields so that farmers cannot harvest. Bombing power stations so that people freeze in the winter months and flooding online platforms with disinformation.”

“And yet in these two years Russia has failed to reach Kyiv, failed to undermine transport from Western countries of military kit; failed to subjugate the Ukrainian people.”

But, she added: “They continue to need all of our help— military, economic, humanitarian — in order to keep Russia at bay, and the work of World Jewish Relief is an important part of that help, both for vulnerable people in parts of Ukraine that can be hard to reach and for Ukrainian refugees in the UK.”

Attendees of the evening were treated to a performance by the Kyiv City Ballet, who left Ukraine for a performance in Paris the day before war broke out and have not been able to return to Ukraine since.

WJR chair, Maurice Helfgott, spoke about the “heartbreak” both in Israel and across the Jewish community since the October 7 massacre and emphasised the necessity for the safe return of hostages, while highlighting the importance of standing alongside the people of Ukraine in their time of need.

He said: “It is right to find the space in our heads and our hearts to be there for others… because it reflects our fundamental values. It is the right thing to do, and it is the Jewish thing to do.”

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