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Faces of The Fellowship: Iana and Dennis

FOTF Iana and Dennis (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni)

Iana and Dennis fell in love in a warzone. In 2014, people living in the Donetsk region of Ukraine – including Iana and Dennis – watched in horror as pro-Russian militants invaded, trying to capture their city. Many Ukrainians rebelled. This hostile environment seemed devoid of hope or happiness – but thankfully Iana and Dennis found both in each other.

As shells flew overhead, they planned their wedding and eventually tied the knot a little over a year ago. They continued on with life as best they could, relying on each other and the excitement of being newlyweds to pull them through. But eventually the war took a toll on their health.

“We would lie in bed and hear shells flying over the house at night,” says Iana. “It was never clear whether a shell would hit our house or not. We didn’t even feel safe in our home, so we definitely didn’t feel safe walking in the streets.”

It’s difficult to leave the place you were born, the place where you fell in love, and the place where your family lives. Yet Iana and Dennis didn’t want to live in this place that had become a warzone. They both come from strong Jewish backgrounds, so they started talking about moving to their spiritual homeland. Eventually, they contacted The Fellowship and asked to take a Fellowship Freedom Flight to Israel.

For Iana, moving to her Jewish homeland will be a true blessing because now she’ll get to celebrate her faith in the Holy Land. Her childhood was filled with Jewish traditions thanks to her grandfather who loved to cook traditional Jewish foods and celebrate all the Jewish holidays. She misses these moments she’d spend with her grandfather. She’d often find him in the kitchen preparing dishes like shakshouka, hummus, and falafel for the morning, and then matzah, stuffed fish, and latkes for dinner. Today, Iana continues these traditions and prepares meals for her family. Now she will be able to prepare them in Israel!

Dennis and Iana both lost their jobs when the war began, so they hope to have more luck in Israel. Dennis was a business owner and Iana worked in the judiciary system. “We tried to find different work outside of Donetsk, but we weren’t successful,” says Iana.

Israel will be the place where Iana and Dennis start a family, something Iana has dreamed about for a while: “I’ve been interested in Israel for a long time. I’m happy my family will live on Jewish land. My mother never tried to conceal her Jewishness, in spite of being persecuted because of it. I’m proud to be Jewish, but it wasn’t easy being a Jew in the former Soviet Union. I’m glad that we’ll be living in Israel. We want our children to live under the Israeli sky.”

The couple is grateful that The Fellowship and our donors all over the world are helping them during a difficult situation. “Thanks to this support, we're able to start life anew in Israel. The Fellowship helped us significantly in a wide range of areas, including providing essential information and financial support. Thank you!”

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