For New Widow, ‘Horrible Days.’ Then More Help Arrived

By Gelena Blishteyn
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Ms. Gil at her subsidized apartment in Brooklyn.Credit…Sasha Maslov for The New York Times

Mayya and Vilyam Gil, immigrated to the United States in 1992 arriving from Kyiv, Ukraine. Already well into their 60’s, Mr. Gil suffered a stroke in Ukraine that he had never fully recovered from and impeached his ability to gain employment. Full of energy and passion for the Jewish community, Mayya and Vilyam became active members and volunteers of the Marks JCH. Joining social interest clubs developed and spearhead for Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors. Mr. Gil became a permanent fixture at the Marks JCH volunteering for nearly 27 years advocating on behalf of the community, organizing events for Russian-speaking seniors and survivors and most notably leading the Marks JCH delegation annually at the Israel Day Parade. Mayya continued to be involved in our weekly Yiddish club and cultural arts performances. In 2013, Mayya and Vilyam suffered an unimaginable loss when one of their daughters passed away. Through critical support from the UJA Federation of NY and the NYT Neediest Cases, Marks JCH was able to assist the family in covering costs in securing a gravestone for their daughter’s burial plot.

In April of 2020, Vilyam Gil passed away from complications caused by the COVID-19 virus after a nearly two-week illness. As Mayya shared after 68 years of marriage, they had to say their goodbyes over the phone while hospitalized and Vilyam “lacked the energy to even speak.” After Vilyam’s passing, Mayya’s home health aide hours were cut by half – at a time when the COVID-19 crisis was at its height in NYC – leaving her trapped at home with no access to the outside world. Marks JCH quickly stepped in as we monitored the needs of our most fragile community members. Marks JCH professionals once again provided immediate funds, through the generosity of the UJA Federation of NY and NYT Neediest Cases, to expand the hours of Mayya’s trusted home health aide right after Vilyam’s passing. In addition, Marks JCH provided comprehensive case management and advocacy which reinstated cut home health aide hours as well as certified SNAP and disability benefits on behalf of Mayya. Currently, Mayya is an active participant of Marks JCH’s virtual socialization offerings for Holocaust survivors allowing her to connect safely to her friends and community members as she grieves. Our professionals and case managers provide weekly wellness checks for Mayya keeping apprised of her needs and maintaining her spirits.

Mayya, is just one of the hundreds of Holocaust survivors cared for by the Marks JCH. Through the generous support of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, Jewish Federations of North America, and the Claims Conference we are proudly serving over 700 Holocaust survivors – including delivering meals, providing funds for groceries, daily health and wellness checks, supportive counseling, dozens of virtual socialization opportunities and cultural arts performances, comprehensive case management, support with public benefits, cash relief distribution, memory support and bereavement groups and others. For the Marks JCH, the dignity and care of Holocaust survivors is of the utmost priority during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

To read Mayya’s full story in the New York Times, please click HERE

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