Today is Israel’s first-ever Aliyah Day, a holiday celebrating those who immigrate to the Holy Land. The Fellowship regularly brings new olim (immigrants) to Israel, providing escape from anti-Semitism or unrest in their countries of origin or giving them a long-awaited chance to return to their biblical homeland. On a recent Fellowship Freedom Flight from Ukraine, we brought Pavlo, Valentyna, and their three children to Israel. Their story illustrates why aliyah (immigration to Israel) is so important and why The Fellowship is passionate about making it possible for as many Jewish people as possible.
"Shells Fell Around Our House at Least Eight Times"
Pavlo and his wife, Valentyna, lived in Mariupol, Ukraine, before making aliyah with The Fellowship. After April 2014, the month the war came to the city, many residents – including Pavlo and Valentyna – fled, hoping to find a safer area in which to live.
“Our three children – the 12-year-old twins, Danylo and Mykyta, and 7-year-old Kyrylo – are still alive because of a miracle,” says Pavlo. “Despite the fact that Mariupol has been freed from the Russian-backed separatist’s control, people there still can hear explosions and shelling.”
Shortly after the war started in the Donbass region, the family decided to leave the city.
“We’ve gotten used to shelling,” says Pavlo. “When the war started, we were hiding in the basement for two months. Shells fell around our house at least eight times. The nearest one fell a mere 15 yards away. It’s a miracle that house has remained undamaged,” Pavlo says.
The family began to fear for their lives when a shell hit the children’s school.
“Luckily, it was the weekend and nobody was hurt,” says Pavlo. “After this happened, my wife and I decided to get our documents in order and take our boys out of school to protect them from danger.”
The family has relatives living in Germany, so they packed their belongings and moved there for a year to avoid the war in Ukraine. Sadly, difficulties followed them to Germany, too.
“My wife and I couldn't find jobs in Germany,” says Pavlo. “It was just impossible. We were officially refugees. Ukrainian refugees are not very welcome there. We're considered economic refugees.” Then they moved back to Mariupol, hoping to apply for aliyah with The Fellowship.
Before the war, both Pavlo and Valentyna held jobs in Mariupol. “I was a specialist in the Lombard stores,” says Valentyna. “Pavlo had a successful building business. However, things changed dramatically once the war started. Investors stopped visiting Ukraine.”
With no job prospects and the constant shelling surrounding their home and neighborhood, the family decided on a date to take a Fellowship Freedom Flight to Israel.
“It’s not easy for the children to accept the fact that they'll be living in a new country once again,” Pavlo says. “Our youngest son started school in Germany and started learning German. This move to Israel will be the third relocation in two years.”
The children are wary of relocating to new places because of the stress and trauma they experienced living in a war-torn nation: “It's too much for them – especially for Kyrylo. The war gave him a huge fright. He endured shock and spent some time in the hospital,” Pavlo explains.
But Pavlo believes Israel is a place where they will finally find some peace and hopes his family will adapt to their new home in Israel quickly.
“I've always had goals in life. Now I believe I can make it in Israel,” says Pavlo. “Maybe I will work in the building business or maybe it will be something else. The most essential thing is I see this as a chance to start over, to build a new life for the family.”
“We'll need to start by getting familiar with Israeli culture and our Jewish traditions,” says Pavlo. “We want to immerse ourselves in our new environment as soon as possible. We couldn’t do it without the assistance of The Fellowship. We're grateful that The Fellowship is providing financial, informational, and moral support for those who really need it.”
With Pavlo’s enthusiasm and the support of The Fellowship, the family is certain to regain hope and find success in Israel.