Jews pray in the synagogue in Donetsk.
(photo credit: DONETSK JEWISH COMMUNITY)
The Jewish community of Donetsk lost one of its members when a rocket hit her house Tuesday evening, only hours before another strike hit a bus only several hundred meters away from the city’s synagogue during morning prayers.
Shelkaeva Irina Grigorievna, 54, had worked for the local Jewish community for eight years, both as a guard and a designer of educational materials at the local kindergarten, said Nadiya Goncharuk, a community leader.
I have “no words” and “can’t cry anymore,” Goncharuk told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“She was funny, intelligent and very talented. She created pictures and information for kids and parents on walls in the kindergarten.”
She is survived by her husband and will be buried on Thursday.
In a separate incident, a minibus was hit by rocket fire 300 meters away from the Donetsk synagogue. The rabbi sent his congregants away from the synagogue for their protection after the incident, in which one person died.
“In the middle of the morning prayers, walls shook with noise” as the rockets hit the nearby bus station, city Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski, who is also in Kiev, told the Post, recounting descriptions from frightened congregants.
“There was... a commotion and hysteria,” but “later, when the place calmed down after the evacuation of casualties, [life] returned to normal in the center” of the city, he said.
Regular distribution of humanitarian aid at the synagogue will continue today, the community announced on its Facebook page, calling on people to pray for the victims.
“People are afraid, they are crying,” Goncharuk, who is living as a refugee in Kiev where she works to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid, told the Post.
“Imagine... every hour I am getting horrifying news from our home city.”
Despite the fear, however, the community is continuing to provide services, including free hot lunches and food packages both at the synagogue and the nearby Jewish community center, she added.
There are “more and more people [getting food] every day. Now [there are] near 300.”
Out of a prewar population of between 10,000 and 11,000 Jews, only around 2,500 remain in the separatist stronghold, she said.
David Mondshine, the CEO of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, has expressed interest in evacuating some of the Jewish community to the nearby Russian city of Rostov, just over the border, which has become a popular destination for Ukrainians fleeing their civil war.
Mondshine is currently negotiating the rental of a property there to serve as a refugee center similar to the already existing ones in Zhitomir and Shpola.
“We are trying now to arrange something in Rostov for the people from Donetsk who want to go out now,” Mondshine said.
On Tuesday, a building housing a Jewish social welfare center in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, was hit by rockets during a barrage that killed at least seven people.