• Jewish elderly meet inside over a hot meal while it is freezing cold outside. | Photo: C4I
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Providing warmth amidst the cold: Warm soup in freezing Ukraine

12 January 2024

As rocket and drone attacks persist in Ukraine, it is all hands-on deck to keep the 16 soup kitchens that Christians for Israel supports functioning. But are all these soup kitchens prepared? Yes, they are! At the end of November, we contacted all the people in charge with a clear directive: stockpile sufficient food products for at least a month, conduct thorough tests on generators, and secure an ample supply of diesel or gasoline. No excessive luxury as Ukraine braces for a second bitterly cold winter.

Biting winds from the north
As temperatures plummet to -19 degrees Celsius at night, the biting winds from the north intensify the cold, bringing the perceived temperature to around -27 degrees. In the face of these harsh conditions, the significance of warm, nourishing soup becomes paramount, particularly for the many hundreds of Jewish elderly in Ukraine. 

Whether they receive a double meal delivered to their homes or gather at the soup kitchen, a bowl of steaming fresh soup works wonders for these individuals. The restorative power of a hearty soup offers not just physical warmth but a rejuvenating experience as well. For those too frail to go outside, too frightened due to the ongoing bombings, or too sick, volunteers step in to deliver double meals to their homes several times a week, ensuring that the comforting nourishment reaches them as well.

Dark and cold
Because of the cold and the ongoing bombing, an increasing number of places in Ukraine are grappling with the failure of gas supply. In these dire circumstances, the loss of heating becomes not just an inconvenience but a life-threatening situation. Without a functioning heating system, residents are compelled to seek refuge elsewhere, as staying in unheated homes poses a real risk of freezing to death. While enduring the absence of electricity and water is possible for a while, the absence of heating in freezing conditions becomes a critical concern. In several cities, buildings are open with beds and heating, especially for the many homeless.

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Increased demand for meals
There are four large soup kitchens operating in Kiev alone, one of which has a large tent where hundreds of Jewish elderly people come to eat every week. The soup kitchens operate year-round, but especially during the cold winter months there is an increased demand for hot meals – and these meals include soup! Each person in charge of a soup kitchen decides who qualifies for meals. Think of Jewish elderly people with small pensions, the weak, the sick and Holocaust survivors. As these vulnerable groups navigate challenging circumstances, the soup kitchens serve as vital hubs of support for those in need.

Prepared with care and given with love
All meals are prepared with care and distributed with warm smiles by dedicated local volunteers. The coldest and darkest winter months bring forth an influx of new requests, with the ongoing trench warfare in the east and south leading to a surge in refugees in need of assistance. It is hard for me to understand how people in the east and south endure the situation over there!

One of the help recipients in Belaya Tserkov is Svetlana. She survived the Holocaust. Her older brothers were killed in battle, and her younger brothers were sent with her to a children’s concentration camp where medical experiments were carried out; the brothers died as a result. After surviving the Nazis, her mother was sent to a Stalinist camp at the end of the war. Svetlana grew up in children’s homes and was left to fend for herself her whole life. She still finds it hard to get used to the fact that someone is now looking after her. Every time we come, she has prepared a gift – she simply wants to express her gratitude. “I love you so much, I can’t put it into words! You’ve become family to me!” says Svetlana.

With a smile, volunteer Konstantin delivers meals, like here to 93-year-old Svetlana! | Photo: C4I


12,000 additional meals needed
Over 12,000 additional meals will be needed in the coming months! Will you help? One meal costs 5 euros / 5 US dollars and will directly impact the lives of those in need. Thank you very much for your help.

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