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A Letter to Annya

A Letter to Annya


A note to the reader: In the course of my work for Chabad's Children of Chernobyl (an organization which airlifts Jewish children from the area infected by the Chernobyl reactor meltdown) I received a request to aid a 12 year old girl who had been found in an orphanage in Minsk. Since then, I have been working to arrange for the girl's aliyah to Israel and placement in a treatment center that can care for her multiple needs. The girl has captured the attention of the many people throughout the Jewish world. The ensuing months have been frustrating, with one bureaucratic obstacle after the other preventing her arrival in Israel. Each day brings hope, each day there is another setback. And each day Annya remains in Belarus, suffering. I wrote the following on one of those days.

Dear Annya,

I am doing my best. And I pray that it is good enough.

Daily I think of you. Worry about you. Pray for you.

You came to me unexpectedly. We never met. I have only seen your picture. And even that came long after I knew that we were bonded and that I was committed to helping you.

When I read your medical reports and the description of the dreadful place from where you came, I knew that G‑d had sent you to me, and me to you. I knew that we had some ancient bond, that there was a debt that I owed you, a debt that I must and will pay.

I have no ideas what that debt is, and it matters not. For if the A-mighty had not deemed me responsible to you, He would not have placed your life before me, and opened my heart so completely to your plight.

How can one begin to fathom your life? Abandoned at birth by your parents. Placed in an institution mockingly called an orphanage. Caged. Strait jacketed. Forced for twelve years to crawl on hands and knees because a simple operation was denied you, an operation that could correct the deformity caused by your Cerebral Palsy.

I read how you were found with pus dripping from your eyes, how you were forcibly held while your head was shaved, how you are unable to read nor write, nor have you even used a pencil or crayon.

My G‑d! You have never even seen a toy!

I filled in the gaps: A child never kissed or hugged. Never comforted. With no one to listen to your loneliness. Your pain. Your fears. Your hopes (if indeed any were left to you).

I wept in sadness and in anger. And I've wept ever since. Wept because you are still in Belarus. Still suffering. Despite all my attempts. Despite the attempts by so many people who care about you. Lovely people into whose hearts you have literally crawled and yet who, like me, are yet impotent to bring you safety, to love, to health, and to hope.

Who must you have been, dear Annya, to have evoked so much in so many people? For they, like me, have a commitment that goes far beyond sentimentality or pity. How great you must be and have been, how much good you must have done to us all at some time or other. Will we be able to repay you?

With certainty I know of this debt that I have to you. A certainty proven by your goodness. For it is your goodness, more than your pain and torment, that has touched me so deeply.

The report by those who found you reads:

This girl came to our attention because though she could not walk but crawled, though pus was dripping from her eyes, she was the child who crawled to help the others. It was Annya who crawled, sitting on her bottom, pulling herself forward by hands that had become callused and deformed from the effort, to fetch the one urinal used by the many children who could not move, but were held captive in their beds, cribs, and cages. It was Annya who crawled to fetch the one toothbrush shared by all the children in the ward. It was Annya that exhibited such goodness that we knew that this child deserved an extra chance.

Is it really any wonder when later they discovered that you, dear Annya, are Jewish? That you come from the one people marked by the three signs of "Compassion, Modesty and Acts of Kindness"? Though you were abandoned, raised in the most cruel and inhumane conditions, deprived of any vestige of human comfort or kindness, these qualities of your Jewish soul shone so brightly that you were noticed in the midst of absolute darkness, total despair.

Annya, as a beacon shines across the ocean, the light of your goodness has reached people all over the world, people who now flock to your aid. And on behalf of them I promise that we will repay our debt, that you will have your chance, that you will arrive at a place of safety and of love, please G‑d let it be soon.

I promise you Annya, that we will fulfill the promise that G‑d has placed before you.

Jay Litvin was born in Chicago in 1944. He moved to Israel in 1993 to serve as medical liaison for Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl program, and took a leading role in airlifting children from the areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster; he also founded and directed Chabad’s Terror Victims program in Israel. Jay passed away in April of 2004 after a valiant four-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their seven children. He was a frequent contributor to the Jewish website
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Helena jones Newport, UK January 25, 2012

Annya Glozman Can anyone tell me where Annya is today I would love to know I knew her when she was in novinki and helped to get her into Invinettes with Ferder the director? Can anyone give me any news please?? Reply

awrham harel raanana, Israel August 16, 2007

annya i am very impressed by the fate of annya and very thankful to all of you, who helped her and all the other children from chernobyl. thanks to haschem. I look for the "chabad 's children of chernobyl." Reply

Yanki Tauber Editor, July 13, 2004

Yes, it's the same Anya! Thank you so much H.H. for finding this. Jay had mentioned to me about working with a Welsh woman on Anya's behalf, so this is definitely the same Anya. I also knew that the years(!) of struggling with the Belarusian bureaucracy the get permission to take Anya out of the country were a source of great frustration for Jay. I was not aware of the story's happy ending, and was wondering myself what had happened with Anya. Reply

H. Hudspeth July 12, 2004

A Miracle in Hell - by Barbara Sofer Yesterday I searched ( on the Internet ) for the entire story of Annya. For a reason not yet known to me I needed to know what happened to her. But I found nothing.

Today I tried again, with the same results. And then I asked G-d to help me find the story, and I found it on my next try. :)

In part it says -- " Chabad's Children of Chernobyl, a Jewish charitable organization, was so inspired by meeting Annya that it established the Annya Glozman Sensory Development Center in the very ward where Annya once bumped down the long corridor........ "

The entire story:

I thought that this story may be one of interest to other readers.

As for Jay's letter, it's the kind of thing that walks into one's heart and makes its home there -- thank you yet again, Jay.


s.g. oak park, mi July 6, 2004

Annya What ever happened to Annya? Reply