Personal stories from Russia & Baltic States For Anna Michurina, director of the ORT Odessa school, the contrast between the academic excellence and cultural effervescence that the school has achieved in its 11 ears of existence and its even more desperate battle to stave off a threatened financial meltdown has never been more jarring. She muses, We were selected one of the best three schools in Odessa winners of all technology education in Ukraine and an award from the Academy of Science. Jewish parents want the very best education for their children, so we have so far managed to keep operating at full capacity despite the budget cutbacks. Yet if we have to stop bus service we are going to lose a lot of kids, since many are coming from outlying areas and their parents simply cannot afford the cost of public transportation for them to come here every day. Diana Shwartz, an engineer and mother of two sons attending the ORT Odessa school is concerned about what will happen to her boys education if teachers salaries will continue to fall as a result of the financial crisis. Of course, I am upset that my boys are not receiving a hot, balanced meal every day, and I worry about the impact of further cuts. Yet even if conditions become worse, Ill keep them at the ORT school, which is the only place in Odessa where they can be educated to be real Jews. Previously, my oldest son was in a private school with a high reputation but we pulled him out when the parents voted to bring a priest to the school to talk to students. Vladimir Lekhmatov is a recent graduate of the Herzl ORT Technical Lyceum in Kishinev. He remarks: The only connection to Jewishness I had growing up was an old menorah my grandmother kept. When I decided to enroll at the ORT school, my parents objected. But I insisted on doing so and quickly felt myself to be at home, part of a large Jewish family. Not only did I learn about Jewishness at school, but I was able to travel to Israel and to Auschwitz on the March of the Living. Today Vladimir is a leader of the Betar youth movement at a nearby private university. My knowledge level is higher than most other students at the university thanks to the excellent IT education I received at ORT. But the main thing I learned there is that I am really and truly a Jew. Elena and Victoria Praisman, 19-year old twins, who graduated from the Kiev ORT Lyceum, decided to change their last name from the mothers Ukrainian name of Danilenko to their fathers clearly Jewish one. Our parents gave us our mothers name because they thought we would do better in society with the Ukrainian-sounded name, explains Victoria. Yet after we came here in the seventh grade and began learning about Jewish culture and history, we became progressively more connected to our Jewish heritage. Eventually, we decided that we wanted people to know we were Jewish so we changed our family name to Praisman. Make a difference. Support students in ORT schools in the CIS and Baltic States now. Donate Now!