A home for Righteous Among the Nations has been purchased in Belarus after over $30,000 was raised by the From the Depths organization in recent weeks, the organization announced on Thursday.
The fundraising began after Righteous Among the Nations, Lyubov Volchek, was found living in a crumbling house in Hlusk, a small town in central Belarus. Volchek was honored by Yad Vashem in 1998 for helping to hide and protect Olga Shulman, an 11-year-old Jewish girl from her hometown, during the Holocaust.
Within five weeks, the organization raised $17,000 online from over 250 donors and over $13,000 in other grants. This allowed From the Depths to purchase an apartment near the synagogue in Babruysk, Belarus, the nearest Jewish community to Hlusk, which will undergo extensive renovations to ensure that the residents are comfortable.
At first, Volchek and one other Righteous Among the Nations will enter the apartment, but the apartment will have a few separate areas to allow other Righteous Among the Nations in need to use it as well. From the Depths has also partnered with the local Chabad, headed by Rabbi Shaul Hababo, in order to help keep the home in constant up keep.
In June 1941, Nazi troops gathered the 2,000 Jews living in the town at the main square, led them to death pits and gunned them down. A bullet aimed at Olga Shulman, an 11-year-old Jewish girl from the town, missed and she hid under the dead body of her mother for two days.
Shulman proceeded to crawl out of the pit and eventually made her way to Volchek's mother, who decided to protect the girl. According to Yad Vashem, Nadezhda Arkhiptsova, Volchek's mother, was living in the town with her ill husband and four children when Shulman came knocking on their door. Despite the danger, crowding and poverty, she welcomed Shulman into her home and hid her on her property.
Volchek was placed in charge of looking after her, bringing her food, blankets and friendship every day. When the Nazis carried out searches for Jews in local houses, Volchek led Shulman to a mud hut nearby where she continued to care for her.
After the town was liberated in 1944, Olga was located by her uncle who brought her to Minsk and she emigrated to the US in the 1990s, remaining in contact with Volchek and her parents, visiting them every year until her death.
The online fundraiser for the apartment is still open, with a goal of raising $50,000. If more funds are raised, they will go towards helping the other 194 living Righteous Among the Nations around the world.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, From the Depths has worked to locate the Righteous Among the Nations and help them stay safe and taken care of during the international crisis.
"Helping heroes such as Lyubov is literally the least we can do for them, giving her the opportunity to spend her final years in dignity," said Jonny Daniels of the From the Depths organization. "The help she provided a young Jewish girl 78 years ago put her life at risk, for us, it’s a little hard work to help her and make sure she is safe today."
From the Depths works to help both Righteous Among the Nations and Holocaust survivors, providing care packages, financial aid and services to them.