These are remarkable times with all of us terrified and shocked by the news we are getting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
My mother came from Kyiv when she was a tiny 2-year-old literally being carried across Europe by her brother as they ran from the Russian-sponsored pogroms tearing apart their home. How sad that history is repeating itself, but now it’s not just the Jews fleeing — it’s a nation of people.
I called my friend Doris Schechter, who sounded very sad on the phone. When I asked her what’s happening, she shared her horror of watching what was happening in Ukraine. I told her to turn off her TV, but she said that was only part of her sorrow. The real issue, she said, is that the present crisis reminded her vividly of her childhood running away from the Nazis over half a century ago.
Doris, along with her family, lived in Guardiagrele as free prisoners of Mussolini. In 1944, President Roosevelt invited 1,000 refugees as guests of the United States of America.
I asked her to write about her memories and I would like to share her “Reflections” with you all.
With great sadness, I watched mothers and children trying to escape the terrors of war in the Ukraine. It catapults me back to my formative years with my parents, living in Italy.
The Nazis, marching into Guardiagrele, Italy, enveloped us with tremendous fear for our lives. My parents knew then that we had to find an escape route in order to save themselves and me, their 5-year-old.
There was only one decision. We would have to cross the front to get to the Allied area.
We joined a group of Italians who were going to cross the front. What a horrific time of complete danger, crossing minefields, where one had to follow in the footsteps of the person in front of you, to avoid stepping on a mine.
There I was, 5 years old, knowing to be quiet and having to be completely obedient to whatever my parents said.
Even so, I lost my shoes in the mud, and marched bravely without a whimper.
The fear that I had not only for myself, but also for the fear my parents had, that I internalized, has remained an emotional part of my life. I always wondered why, and to what end, that one cruel murderer can perpetrate on humanity and innocent children.
She became a refugee to America, living in an abandoned army camp called Fort Ontario, which was located in Oswego, New York. Now, she is a successful Manhattanite!
Doris sweetly told me that writing down her story helped her. But I reminded her to stop watching the war news and she told me she did stop.
I feel we all need to help in the humanitarian efforts to help the refugees fleeing. I feel so helpless watching the devastation, but helping is the only thing we can control.
There are many ways you can help and donate. Here are a few ideas:
Catholic Relief Service
CRS and their partner Caritas Ukraine are asking for donations in order to continue and provide more support. Pre-crisis Caritas Ukraine humanitarian assistance for Ukraine has been in the form of clothing, footwear and other necessary items to hundreds of people a week in Ukraine. Currently, they are on the ground providing the Ukrainian people with warm blankets, food, supplies and some toys.
Care is a global leader striving to end worldwide poverty. Currently, their focus is on Ukraine, where they are asking for donations to reach 4 million with immediate relief. They are dedicated to helping with aid, recovery, food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and cash assistance. They are prioritizing women and girls, families, and the elderly.
International Committee of Red Cross
Presently, the ICRS is working with the Ukrainian Red Cross Society with essential support for the Ukrainian people. Some emergency assistance they are providing are vital needs like food and water. They are also helping hospitals with medical equipment, repairing water stations, and supporting separated families. Donate here.
UJA-Federation of New York
UJA and their partners have been on the ground from the beginning responding to emergency needs. Right now, priorities include: Emergency relief in Ukraine; humanitarian supplies in and around Ukraine; refugee aid in neighboring countries; and facilitating aliyah. To date, UJA has allocated $5 million in emergency funding.
World Central Kitchen
This is one unique organization founded by Spanish-American chef José Andrés. The WCK team and volunteers are currently serving meals in the south of Poland near the Ukrainian border, where they are working with the city to provide hot meals to refugees crossing.
Save the Children
Save the Children is currently focusing on the 7.5 million children in Ukraine who are in danger. They are providing children and families with immediate support in food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and cash assistance.
Check out our other media outlets for other ways to donate!