Humanitarian aid consignment arrives in Belarus

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Humanitarian aid consignment arrives in Belarus

This morning, over twelve tonnes of humanitarian aid ended its week-long, 1400-mile journey to Minsk, Belarus, where it will be distributed to our partner communities. Our volunteer team in Minsk began the lengthy task of unloading the sacks, boxes, desks, chairs, tables and an array of other items into the warehouse.

The journey, which began last Thursday, marks the culmination of over six months’ work by our UK team of volunteers who collect, sort and pack the aid ready for dispatch to Belarus. But for the Belarusian team, this is just the beginning.

As well as clothes, shoes and blankets for individuals, the consignment included a large amount of furniture, stationery and resources for community centres, facilitating a range of projects and a vibrant community life. Communities are also responsible for distributing aid to those among them who need it most. Giving collective responsibility for this important undertaking, encourages participation in community life, promotes responsible and transparent leadership, and enables people to take ownership of this aspect of their lives. In this way, meeting an immediate material need does not develop into dependence, but rather promotes community growth, paving the way for a self-sufficient future.

But for now, the project continues. If you have any good-quality clothes, shoes, simple childrens’ books, toys or Judaica you no longer need, they could form part of our next consignment. Please contact us at office@thetogetherplan.com or on 0203 375 0656 to arrange a donation.

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40-foot container of humanitarian aid departs for Belarus

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Yesterday, over twelve tonnes of humanitarian aid began a four-day journey by lorry to Belarus, where it will be received by our team in Minsk. The occasion marks the culmination of over six months’ work by our team of volunteers who collect, sort and pack the aid ready for dispatch to Belarus.

The packing operation began at 8:30am at The Together Plan’s warehouse in Mill Hill, and our lorry – chartered especially from Belarus – arrived an hour later. Volunteers then spent the next six hours loading bags, boxes and furniture onto the lorry. Donations ranged from blankets to schoolbooks and babies’ nappies to Zimmer frames.

We are incredibly grateful to all the volunteers who helped with the loading of the lorry. A special mention must go to Neil Clowes, who not only weighed in himself but brought with him four employees of his removals company, Apt and Able. Thanks are also due to Adam Woolf and Mitchell Harris for their help with loading. All three are members of Chipping Barnet BNI. Finally, wishing all the best to our driver, Andrey, as he undertakes his 1300-kilometer voyage across Europe!

Watch this space for more pictures once the lorry reaches Minsk and the unloading and distributing process begins!

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Photos of International Women’s Day Celebrations in Minsk

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Last week, members of Minsk’s Jewish community of all ages gathered for festivities, music and dancing in commemoration of International Women’s day. The Together Plan team in Minsk laid on food, drinks and two musicians for the celebrations, which were thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Among the attendees were several survivors of the Minsk Ghetto, including the chairwoman of the Ghetto Survivors’ Association, Frida Reisman. The Together Plan has been working with the community of Ghetto survivors, providing material support and helping them to organise social activities and Jewish events for the community.

The Minsk Ghetto was notorious as one of Europe’s most brutal, where the use of poison gas to kill Jews was first tested, and where German soldiers would routinely raid the Ghetto and murder its inhabitants for sport. Many of the Ghetto survivors now put great effort into educating younger generations about the Holocaust, helping people to comprehend and memorialise it in a bid to prevent anything similar from happening today. Frida and her fellow survivors and righteous gentiles are truly inspirational women, thoroughly deserving of the recognition – not to mention friendship – shown to them last week.

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Purim celebrations take Belarus by storm

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Last Sunday, Jewish communities across Belarus hosted Purim celebrations. Featuring singing, dancing, and fancy dress, the festivities brought smiles and laughter across Belarus.

Purim is one of Belarus’ best-loved festivals. In the UK the greatest significance is placed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but in Belarus Purim and Chanukah never fail to draw the biggest crowds. These two festivals celebrate the triumph of the Jewish people over adversity and persecution. In a country where religious freedom is a very new concept (with religion having been banned during the Soviet years until 1991) and the future of Jewish communities is far from secure, these themes resonate all the more strongly.

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Polotsk

The Polotsk Jewish Community’s celebrations took place during its Sunday School. The children made masks and musical shakers, which they showed off in songs and dances to spectacular effect.

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Bobruisk

In Bobruisk, the community’s young members enjoyed a day of arts and crafts, creating masks for the Purim tradition of fancy dress.

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Brest

The Jewish Community of Brest celebrated in style, with a reading of the Megillah, impressive fancy dress – and maybe a vodka or two.

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The Together Plan joins Minsk Ghetto survivors to celebrate WWII victory

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Last week, The Together Plan team in Minsk invited 30 survivors of the Minsk Ghetto, Righteous among Nations, and representatives of the Minsk Jewish Communities, to an event commemorating Belarus’s liberation from Nazi occupation by the Red Army.

Especially for the event two musicians were invited, who sang, played the piano and saxophone. Lots of warm words, laughter, music and dancing took place. Director Artur Livshyts, Development Coordinator Arina Pikhtova and Denis Levin, a volunteer, welcomed the guests with symbolic gifts. All those who were present were deeply moved and speeches were given telling stories of gratitude. Some of the survivors sang songs in Yiddish, the language of their childhood. After the ceremony, the guests were invited to a dinner.

The atmosphere at the event was very warm, and everybody was happy to be there – even telling us that it added a few years to their lives!

The event was held as part of commemorations for Defender of the Fatherland Day, a national holiday held in Belarus and some other former Soviet Republics on 23rd February. First held in 1919, when it was known as “Red Army Day”, it was established to commemorate the Red Army’s first major drafts in Moscow and Petrograd (now St Petersburg) whose first anniversary had been five days previously. It survives as one of many vestiges of Belarus’s Soviet past, where it commemorates the past and present military of Belarus, with a particular focus on the role its predecessor (i.e. the Red Army) played in securing an Allied victory in the Second World War.

By Arina Pikhtova, Development Coordinator (Minsk)

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