In midst of Ukraine unrest, Moishe House offers refuge

Along with the rest of the world, I have been closely following the developments in Ukraine. For me, a native of Ukraine and the senior director of Russian-speaking Jewish programming at Moishe House, the current events have been both a cause of great concern as well as inspiration.

As I was sitting with the residents of Moishe House Kiev in their living room in late February, I couldn’t help but be filled with pride for what these young adults are doing in a tumultuous situation, as well as sadness for the violence and uncertainty of Ukraine’s future.

Moishe House Kiev is located only a few metro stops away from Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Independence Square, the epicenter of the original protests. “For several days we stayed in our house, too afraid to come out on the streets. As public transportation stopped running, we had to cancel several of our events,” writes Anna B, a resident of Moishe House Kiev. “Even when transportation resumed, not a lot of people were out and about and attending programs.”

However, the house has continued to keep its doors open, providing a refuge for the young adult Jewish community away from the tension, a place where they can gather with fellow community members.

Over the last two weeks, since the new government took power, a counterprotest movement has swept the country, primarily in Ukraine’s predominantly Russian-speaking southern and eastern regions. Pro-Russian rallies have materialized in cities such as Kharkiv, Donetsk and Odessa, clashing with the protesters supporting the new government. Russian troops are on the ground in Crimea, the country’s southern region.

This volatile situation has caused an unpredictable and uncertain future for all Ukrainians, including the residents of Moishe House Kiev and Moishe House Odessa. The possibility of an armed conflict with Russia has caused many to reconsider their plans for the near future. As the economic situation has become increasingly unstable, some of our residents and community members have been placed on unpaid leave from work or stopped receiving student stipends that they depend on for their livelihood.

Thanks to the support of our many generous partners, Moishe House has been able to help alleviate some of these economic hardships with increased financial support.

In addition, our residents have shared how the overall Moishe House community has been a continuous source of encouragement and hope. These plugged-in 20-somethings appreciate the support they feel from Moishe House residents around the globe. Skype calls with Moishe House Warsaw and emails of encouragement from the residents of Beijing and New York City houses reflect the strength of the Moishe House network.

I am extremely proud to be a part of an organization that unites Jewish young adults across national and political lines and creates a real community of people who support one another in difficult times.

Yevgeniy Klig is director of RSJ programming for Moishe House in New York. A native of Odessa, Ukraine, he immigrated to the United States in 1997.