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The difficult conditions and loneliness they experienced: 90 Jews from Ukraine tell about the exciting immigration to Israel | Israel today


In Odessa the shops are closed and the traffic lights are off, in the destroyed Mykolaiv water is handed out in the street • Yelena, 84 years old: "My generation was born in the war and ends its life in the war" • But the residents are determined: "They believe in the justice of the struggle" • A journey between cities, at the end of which 90 excited - and safe - Jews immigrate to Israel

On the anniversary of Russia's war in Ukraine, we crossed the border from Moldova to Ukraine.

We visited Odessa, the vibrant tourist city on the shores of the Black Sea that turned into a dark and gloomy ghost town, and the bombed and desperate Mykolaiv.

We met aid organizations and Jews who remained, Holocaust survivors who went back 80 years in time, women whose husbands are fighting on the front and children who are studying in Zoom.

They all told about difficult conditions, frequent power outages, difficulty getting warm in winter, empty shelves in stores, lack of water and medicine.

And there was also one bright spot: a flight with 90 new immigrants to Israel on a Friendship Fund plane.

The excitement and joy of landing in Israel overshadowed for a moment the sadness we left behind.

A building hit by a rocket in the city of Odessa, photo: Reuters

Odessa is deserted by tourists.

Many shops are closed, and instead of tourists who would fill the famous sites of the city, soldiers stand in them today.

The traffic lights are off in most areas of the city, the street lights are off, drivers cross intersections unhindered, and the few who hang around outside put themselves at risk at every road crossing.

Few restaurants are open and full - serve as a bubble of pure escapism.

In the daylight you can still see remnants of the beauty that made it a sought-after city, but at night, when darkness falls already at four o'clock, it is very hard to imagine that this was once a city with a bustling nightlife.

At 11 at night the city goes into curfew.

The dreams that have been fulfilled

Anna Drinko does not have the privilege of immersing herself in escapism in the small, dark basement apartment where she lives with her two children Dasha and Ivan.

Just the day before they had a 24 hour power outage.

Now she is taking advantage of the fact that there is electricity, for who knows how long, to do laundry and charge cell phones.

Anna, Alexei and the children, on his last visit, photo: no

Alexei her husband enlisted in the Ukrainian army when the war broke out.

Since then Anna has frozen dreams and plans for the future.

They once dreamed of traveling the world.

Today the wallpaper on the wall of the house, of famous cities, is the only evidence of the dreams that were shelved.

The last time they saw each other was when he came as a surprise for Christmas.

"I miss him very much, the children too. I just want him to come home safe and sound," she says.

The family receives assistance from food packages.

She is not the only one.

Each month Chabad, with the assistance of the Friendship Fund, distributes 5,000-7,000 food packages to the Jews of Odessa. With the outbreak of the war, the fund raised approximately 30 million dollars and established, in cooperation with local aid organizations such as Chabad and the Joint, emergency centers.

These assisted in rescues to the border, in supplying food, medicine, clothing and blankets, sleeping bags and heating equipment, and provided shelter to refugees.

At the same time, the fund worked - together with Nativ, the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption - to bring about 5,000 new immigrants from Ukraine to Israel via Moldova.

In the Chabad synagogue, about 250 Holocaust survivors are waiting to receive food packages. Among them is a man who was informed the day before that his grandson was killed in battle. His eyes are closed, he is hunched over, he did not want to leave the house but he must eat to survive. Rabbi Avraham Wolff, Rabbi of the community in Odessa, Helps him put the food in the bag he brought with him. The rabbi hugs him, the man cries. Rabbi Wolf too.

Between war and war.

Yelena, photo: Avishag Shaar Yishuv - The Friendship Foundation

Yelena, 84, a well-known theater actress in Odessa, tells us: "In World War II they killed us because we are Jews. Now they kill us because we are Ukrainians. My generation was born in the war, and ends its life in the war."

The heavy price

Hundreds of supply trucks stand on the sides of the road on the long road to Mykolaiv south of Kiev.

The city stood as a buffer in the Russians' effort to reach Odessa to control access to the Black Sea - and paid a heavy price for it.

Houses were bombed, including symbols of government such as the government building and the local university, and many were killed.

The infrastructure was also destroyed, there is no water in the taps in a large part of the city, and the residents fill water bottles at the distribution stations every day.

But the Russians are no more.

They continued further south, and the Ukrainians recorded a victory in this sector.

On the ruins of one of the houses burned by the bomb, we met 82-year-old Galina Petrova Mironenko.

Her neighbor friend was killed in the bombing, but she managed to escape in time.

The charred objects, photos and books remained in the destroyed house.

Evidence of the life that once was here.

In the last year, about 1,500 Jews were rescued from Mykolaiv, some immigrated to Israel.

Today, about 4,000 Jews live in the city.

They also receive assistance.

The schools are conducted online only, and even that with difficulty due to multiple power outages.

In Mykolayiv despair spread, the end of the war was not in sight, but the support for the struggle against Russia did not stop.

"We believe in the struggle and its justice," one of the residents tells us.

the happy ending

In a hotel in Chisinau, Moldova, on the eve of the special flight to Israel, the immigrants are excited - tomorrow they will be in Israel.

Tears of excitement on the way to Israel, photo: Avishag Shaar Yeshav - The Friendship Foundation

The 76-year-old Lev will meet his wife whom he has not seen for almost a year, his daughter and his grandchildren.

22-year-old Katrina will meet her parents, who immigrated to Israel before the war.

63-year-old Yelena from Kiev will meet her grandchildren.

She cries as she remembers the friends she lost.

Everyone almost stopped speaking Russian and went back to speaking Ukrainian.

"Russian is the language of war," Katrina explains to us.

The next day they get on the plane.

The flight is short, three hours, but as the plane approaches landing they look out and the excitement is at its peak.

For most of them this is their first time in Israel.

They left behind a snowy land, and the sights here are so different.

When the plane lands everyone breaks into applause and singing, wiping the tears from their eyes.

Now they are safe.

The writer was a guest of the Friendship Foundation

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Source: israelhayom

All news articles on 2023-02-16

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