Anyone who has ever walked into the home of Rabbi Moshe and Miriam Moskovitz in Kharkov, Ukraine, knows Luda.

With her endless energy and dedication, Luda would do everything she could to help the Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries to the city. She would make sure that the Seder table was set for 80 guests on Passover, and although she was not Jewish, she would be especially joyous during every festival. She would bring food to the large sukkah the family set up outside their home on Sukkot, and she would stay to help out on Simchat Torah, when the last guests often didn’t leave until 2 a.m.

Every morning at 8 a.m., Luda would arrive at the Moskovitz home after traveling for more than an hour from Tsirkunoy, her little village on the outskirts of the city. Except on Feb. 24. After being with the family for 26 years, Luda didn’t make it into work.

That morning, Russia had pushed into parts of Ukraine, setting the stage for months of bombings and battles.

After a few hours, she called Miriam Moskovitz, her voice desperate. Tsirkunoy was under Russian control, and she couldn’t leave her home. According to Luda, the village was without power, and she was hiding underground in the basement of her small home as the firefighting in the streets and bombing took place overhead.

A few days later, they spoke again. Luda told Miriam that her neighbor had been killed after a bomb fell on her house. The blast shattered the windows in Luda’s home, adding that her phone was just about out of battery.

Then the line went dead.

Missing for Months

For two-and-a-half months, no one could reach Luda. Her phone was no longer working, and no one could access Tsirkunoy because it was under Russian military control. In fact, the army was using the town to lob artillery, missiles and bombs into Kharkov, the second-largest city in Ukraine.

As Kharkov remained under attack and supplies in the city grew scarce, Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, who for more than 32 years has served as the chief rabbi in the city, began an emergency campaign. He worked to send out desperately needed food and medicines to hundreds of homes and hired buses to evacuate people from the city’s synagogue, even as people streamed into the building seeking shelter in the basement.

The Moskovitzes, who had evacuated to Israel with members of their community, fielded thousands of messages and calls for help. They did what they could to help working day and night.

There was, however, no word from Luda.

Then last week, news came that Ukrainian forces started to retake villages in the Kharkov region. The names of these small villages would not mean much to many, but Miriam Moskovitz waited anxiously to see if and when Luda’s village would once again emerge.

This week, the news came: Tsirkunoy was returned to Ukrainian control. The bombings and rockets into Kharkov had almost completely stopped, and the city was having its first days of quiet in some seven weeks.

Moskovitz knew this was the time to find out if Luda was OK. With the area still under heavy surveillance and full of mines and traps, the question was how.

Andrei, a Chabad volunteer who since the start of the conflict has driven around Kharkov delivering critical supplies of food and medicine to those in need, said he was willing to go to Tsirkunoy and check on the village, and, of course, Luda.

With a car full of humanitarian supplies from the Jewish community of Kharkov, Andrei set out on a road no one would have dared travel just days earlier. He drove past burnt-out tanks and trucks. He arrived at a checkpoint and after showing that he was bringing humanitarian help from the synagogue in Kharkov, he was allowed in.

Andrei was one of the first volunteers with aid to reach Tsirkunoy. He stopped his car in the village center, opened the back of the car and began handing out care packages to the residents who were just getting their first taste of freedom in months.

Then he drove on to Luda’s home, where he found her alive. She was pale and clearly emotional after such a traumatic past few months, but Luda was thrilled to see him and to hear that the Moskovitzes were thinking of her. She even recorded a video message to the family on Andrei’s phone, telling them she looks forward to the day when she will return to their home on Sadova Street.

Andrei left Luda with food, medicine, gas and other essentials, and returned to Khakov and the synagogue. It would soon once again be time to deliver hot meals to those in need.