Israel is home to a large number of Holocaust survivors, and like other elderly citizens, some face great difficulty making ends meet. One of those survivors, Asia Komisarov, received a troubling notice in August informing her that she had to vacate the run-down building in the Tel Aviv area where she’s been living with her seven cats, because it’s considered unfit for habitation.
With this past Monday's deadline quickly approaching, Komisarov sought help from the Association for Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors, which agreed to take on her case.
The Israeli organization made up entirely of volunteers launched a Facebook campaign to raise the funds to find a new home for Komisarov, posting photos of her, her tiny animal companions and her decrepit living conditions as well as updates detailing her saga.
Tamara More, the organization's CEO, told TheBlaze that Komisarov’s only income is a $700 monthly payment from Bituah Leumi, the Israeli equivalent of Social Security.
Komisarov has a daughter, who lives overseas and with whom she is not in contact, and no other family. The 75-year-old turned to the Ministry of Social Affairs to request public housing, but was told it could be years before an apartment becomes available.
“Asia is a Holocaust survivor, alone in the world and homeless. She is being forced to leave the dump in Jaffa where she lives today. A demolition order has been issued for the building for being dangerous for human habitation. The suitcase is already packed, but there is no apartment,” the Holocaust survivor advocacy group wrote on Facebook.
Among the features of her dwelling are exposed cinder block walls and a shower curtain for a door.
“For the dump, she paid extremely low rent and often gave up on food,” the organization said.
The group has been asking seeking funds, a possible alternate apartment and donated labor to refurbish another run-down house, but also has one unusual request for a survivor aid group: It has been looking for people to adopt some of Komisarov’s pets – a cat and six kittens.
“If you’re planning to adopt a cat, adopt the cat of a Holocaust survivor, so you’ll save two lives, the cat’s and the Holocaust survivor’s who will know that his cat has found a loving home,” the group urged.
More told TheBlaze the group has raised about 10,000 shekels ($3,500), half of which came from the group’s volunteers. With that, it helped Komisarov move to another run-down home this past Sunday, but the amount raised will cover only about two months’ rent. A plumber donated his labor to fix the plumbing which wasn’t working, and a veterinarian donated time to treat the kittens. Other volunteers are buying her food and supplies.
Komisarov was born in Leningrad, now called Saint Petersburg, in the former Soviet Union and spent the war years in Russia. Her father was killed while fighting the war, and her entire family, save for her mother, was killed by the Nazis, according to More, who has spoken extensively with her.
In 2008, Germany agreed to give a one-time payment of about $5,000 to some Jewish survivors of the Nazi siege of Leningrad during World War II.
More says that besides the one-time survivors’ payment, Komisarov never received lifetime reparations from the German government, as do some Holocaust survivors.
“In all my 23 years in Israel, I have not encountered so many good people as I encountered in only one week with volunteers of the Association for the Immediate Help of Holocaust Survivors. I did not even know there are so many good people in this country," Komisarov said. “I want to thank each and every one of the volunteers of this wonderful organization and I would love if you keep the connection with me."
The group is still appealing for more help -- not only money, but household items like a tea kettle and light bulbs for Komisarov’s new home, as well as volunteers who can help her with the cleaning, translate from Russian, spend time with the elderly woman and adopt some of her cats. It is posting occasional updates about Komisarov's story on its English Facebook page.