KIEV, February 24 – As the Ukraine capital returns to relative calm after last week’s clashes, tension in the country’s south and east is increasing. David Benish, Head of the World ORT Representative Office for CIS, Central Asia, Caucasian States & Baltic States has spoken to the principals of the ORT schools in Kiev, Chernovtsi, Zaporojie, and Odessa advising them to hire security. “World ORT will have to cover the cost until we are able to raise funds from supporters,”? Mr Benish said. “We have approached our friends at the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Agency as well as individual donors for help and I believe that they will help.”?
Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi, Yaakov Bleich, told The Jerusalem Post today that “everybody should keep their guard up”? even though there had not been any specific threats against the Jewish community.
Mr Benish said that the situation in Kiev was still difficult despite the end of last week’s political violence.
“Volunteers are trying to protect their neighborhoods because of the dangers posed by criminals,”? he said. “Overnight there were many cases of robbery, cars being burned and other trouble across the city.”?
The Principal of the ORT school in Zaporojie, Dolina Shalmina, is due to meet a security company tomorrow morning.
“It is very, very dangerous because there are a lot of young people around without work, without money and they can do what they want in this situation. I’m afraid for my children and my teachers because we have no security; if someone wanted to make trouble there is nothing to stop them coming into our school,”? Ms Shalmina said. “Parents are calling me all day asking me what to do, saying they don’t want to send their children to school because of the dangers. But it’s difficult to know how to advise them because this situation is unprecedented.”?
Ms Shalmina’s words took on extra urgency following last night’s arson attack against the town’s Giymat Rosa Synagogue. Fortunately, no-one was hurt in the attack, which cause slight damage to the building’s façade.
Already 16 of the school’s 360 students are known to have stayed at home because of security fears. School buses heavily subsidised by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews help many students avoid the anxieties of using public transport.
“I think if we could have security guards even until May then we could see how things are,”? she said.
The Principal of the ORT school in Odessa, Svetlana Manchenko, said: “We need to increase the amount of guards in the school and we’re going to immediately hire armed guards. We thank ORT for being in permanent contact with us since the problems started and assuring us that they will pay for whatever is needed to increase the security in the school.”?
In Chernovtsi, a morning of strikes and protests has given way to calm this afternoon. There, the ORT principal, Ludviga Tsurkan, has enlisted the help of parents “ﾓ one of whom is a police officer “ﾓ to provide some security during the day.
“The students aren’t allowed to leave the school at the end of the day unless accompanied by their parents,”? Ms Tsurkan said.
Today, World ORT provided 10,000 Ukrainian Hryvna in aid for the family of one of Ms Tsurkan’s students: Dan Scherbatyuk’s father, Alexander, 46, was killed by a sniper during last week’s violence in Kiev.
More than 3,000 people, many bearing candles and floral tributes, gathered in the rain outside Chernivtsi’s Museum Of Bukovinian Jewish History And Culture yesterday from where Mr Scherbatyuk’s body was carried to the city’s central cemetery. Mr Benish said the ORT school in Chernivtsi was not in a financial position to help Mr Scherbatyuk’s widow and two dependent children. “So, on the advice of the principal World ORT is arranging its own financial support for the family to help them through this difficult time. The school will, of course, do everything it can to help Dan, who is in the 9th grade, over the long term,”? Mr Benish said. “We wish him and his family a long life.”? Mr Benish thanked those who had sent their condolences and said all messages would be forwarded to the family.