Teachers at Chabad’s Jewish kindergarten in Odessa, Ukraine, were shocked one morning recently to discover that a classroom window had been blown out by an explosion overnight.
“It was fortuitous that there were no children in the building at the time,” one teacher said. “We benefited from a miracle here.”
The magnitude of the miracle became apparent only once teachers arrived in the morning to open the school and saw the extent of the damage caused by Russian shelling.
“The window blew off from the force of the blast,” said Rabbi Avraham Wolff, Chabad emissary and Chief Rabbi of Odessa and Southern Ukraine. “We were lucky it happened at night and not in the daytime when children are on-site. Otherwise things could have turned out much worse, God forbid.”
Rabbi Wolff and his wife, Chaya, made headlines early on during the war when news outlets from around the world reported on their dramatic rescue of 120 orphans from the Mishpacha Orphanage in Odessa shortly after Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine.
After the children were first evacuated, they were put up in a hotel in Berlin. In recent months, as the expenses of housing the children in the German hotel mounted, the children were returned along with their educational staff to their native city of Odessa.
“We’re trying to carry out normal life under fire,” Chaya Wolff reported. “We thought that as time passed the perils of war would decline, too. But it turns out it’s quite the opposite.”
Igor Shatkhin, director of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Southern Ukraine, said that in recent months the federation has been doing everything possible to secure Jewish educational institutions in southern Ukraine.
“We’re talking about more than 20 buildings housing kindergartens, schools and universities in a number of cities in southern Ukraine, and the expense of protecting them is considerable,” Shatkhin said. “The federation under my direction is currently doing a fundraising drive to cover these expenses, and we hope we’ll be successful in collecting enough money to protect the lives of hundreds of children.”