Fellowship staff member Eva Geller visited several families in Ukraine ahead of a recent Fellowship Freedom Flight that brought 90 Ukrainian Jewish refugees to Israel. Here, Eva shares the story of her visit with Tatyana, a 46-year-old woman who made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) aboard this life-changing flight:
Tatyana left Lugansk a week before the flight and came to Kiev so she could prepare to make aliyah. She tells me that the past few months have been a complete whirlwind for her.
"At the beginning, we were all just shocked,” she said. “We couldn’t believe that it was real war, that this was suddenly our life. Each week, the situation in the city got worse – there were more armed forces and more dead people, more stores were closed, there was less and less transportation, and there was shelling all the time. On July 30, the shelling hit our neighborhood late in the evening. I can't even tell you how it feels. It’s more than panic – it’s a fear for your life.”
Tatyana’s face was full of emotion as she continued her story. “There was no electricity, no water, and no phones or any other way to communicate. After the shelling, I ran to my mother's house, a few kilometers away from my home. I was terrified, because my mother is disabled,” she said. “Somehow, I can’t even tell you how because I don’t remember, I brought her to my home. And then somehow, each time there was a shelling, I dragged her to the corridor, and we stayed there, hugging, stressed, and crying together.”
Despite all the challenges she faced, Tatyana had to maintain some sense of normalcy. “I had to go to work because the office where I worked was still open,” she said. “Every step I took on my way to work, I prayed to God that I would survive. I considered myself lucky because I was receiving a salary. Once a week, I woke up at dawn and went to the market to buy the cheapest products I could."
Tatyana was wearing a big Star of David around her neck, so I asked her – aren't you afraid to openly wear this right now in Ukraine?
"It’s safe here in Kiev. But in Lugansk, I wouldn’t dare wear it or show it to anyone," Tatyana said. She then smiled and told me how happy she is to be making aliyah.
Tatyana hopes she will find a decent job and will live a peaceful life in Israel.