European Jewish Association

Eastern Europe less affected by the coronavirus pandemic

One of the lessons so far from the coronavirus pandemic in Europe is that the eastern half of the continent is less affected than the western half.  

The combined death toll to date across more than a dozen eastern countries is less than the number of fatalities on any given recent day in Italy. The highest numbers of infections are in the Czech Republic and Poland, with around 4,500 cases in each country, still a fraction of the numbers in most western European countries.

Partly this could be down to lockdown measures introduced at an early stage in the outbreak. The Czech Republic imposed a strict lockdown three weeks ago, while at the same time Poland cancelled almost all flights in and out of the country. Polish authorities were also quick to close bars, restaurants, cinemas and schools. Police vehicles with mounted loudspeakers blare recorded messages urging people to stay at home.

‘’As far as I know there are no Jews among the people who died from the coronavirus in Poland,’’ said Edward Odener, a leading member of the TSKŻ Board, the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland, in a zoom conversation with the European Jewish Association. ,

TSKZ is the most important organization representing the interests of the Jewish community of the country, with 16 branches and nearly 2,000 active members, out of some 5000 affiliated Jews in the country.

TSKŻ aims to organize and to promote cultural events and Jewish art exhibitions, to consolidate and preserve the cultural heritage of Polish Jews, the Jewish culture among Jews and Poles, Yiddish language courses and publishing projects. It is is very active to preserve the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and of the Shoah.

‘’Most of the elderly Jewish people prefer to rely on their relatives if they need help during this period and are quite reluctant to ask for outside help,’’ Odoner explained.

The Synagogues have volunteers to deliver basic packages of kosher products and matsot for Pessach to the homes of those who will request it. However, there are not so many requests and Odoner presumes that they have other concerns than to keep a strictly kosher Pessach holiday.

In the country, there is no shortage of masks since they started to produce them in Poland.  ‘’Everyone can buy online any quantity of masks, also reusable ones, at an affordable price and they got it the day after their order.

Poles are for the last three weeks in strict lockdown, and Poland closed its borders for non Polish citizens and for non permanent residents since three weeks, Odoner said as he explained the fact that the country was able to contain the coronavirus.

Odoner noted that he didn’t recorded any antisemitic incident blaming the Jews for the crisis like it happened in other countries in Europe.

The article was published on the EJP