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Faces of The Fellowship: Viktor, Svetlana, and Ilya

Faces of The Fellowship: Viktor, Svetlana, and Ilya Sergey Polezhaka

Viktor, 50, and his wife, Svetlana, lived in fear for nearly a year. In May 2014, frequent shelling began near their home in eastern Ukraine, and suddenly, just leaving their home became incredibly dangerous.

They tried to continue sending their 8-year-old son, Ilya, to school, but because there were no bomb shelters at any of the schools, it quickly became evident that they were unsafe. One of the schools was hit by shelling, and all of its windows shattered. Parents began keeping their children at home all day, and the streets became very quiet.

"Ilya in particular loves his piano lessons and was very sad to quit, but it was a lifesaving matter to stay at home," says Svetlana.

Despite all the difficulties, Viktor and Svetlana were hopeful that they could stay in eastern Ukraine. They had a family business, and they prayed it would just be a matter of time until life returned to normal. But one day, on a rare trip away from their home, they were about to get into their car when an armed man approached them and demanded that they give him the keys to the car. They did, and they never saw their car again. They knew it was time to leave.

But by this point, their city was surrounded by barriers. They were afraid of what would happen if they tried to go through them, so they stayed for several more months. Finally, they knew they could not take it anymore and they left for Kiev, where they began preparing to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) with help from The Fellowship. They were on board one of the recent Fellowship Freedom Flights that brought dozens of Ukrainian Jewish refugees to Israel, and they are beginning their new life in Haifa.

They are so excited and relieved to be away from the fighting, but the family is still very nervous. “How do you leave your entire life behind? At the age of 50, I need to restart my life. I hope with all my heart that we did the right thing by making aliyah,” says Viktor. The Fellowship is doing all we can to help this family with their fresh start.

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