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Family Flees to Israel After Release of Kidnapped Pregnant Daughter

Even though Tetiana lived in the middle of war-torn Ukraine, frequently facing countless explosions outside her house, she didn’t want to leave her home. She felt tied to her community because she owned and managed a small bridal shop.The ongoing war made her store less popular – with so many living in poverty, they couldn’t afford an expensive wedding – but Tetiana felt proud of her business. She had created many of the dresses and adornments herself. And with the help of her hardworking husband, who earned enough money to provide for the family, she was able to keep the shop open, despite not having many customers.But one day everything changed. Her daughter, who was studying outside Donetsk, came home in order to visit the family and pick up some clothes. She was preparing to move to Israel, where she knew she would find peace and where she hoped to provide a more promising life to the baby she was expecting. However, in June 2015, the rebel government, the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR),” forces captured her. They disagreed with her pro-Ukrainian beliefs and volunteer work.On the day Tetiana’s daughter was captured, the Ministry of State Security searched Tetiana’s home and found a block of trinitrotoluene in the garage, which is commonly used in explosives. The Ministry along with the DPR used this as evidence to accuse her of being a sniper for pro-Ukrainian activity, and they promptly took her into captivity.They also interrogated Tetiana for over seven long hours. She tried to tell the Ministry that her daughter had cerebral palsy and couldn’t have lifted a heavy weapon to participate in sniper activity, but they wouldn’t listen. She watched as they forcefully took her daughter away.According to Tatiana, the law states that the DPR can hold people captive for 30 days before they have found proof that the person is guilty. They kept her daughter for 41 days and locked her up in a factory. Tatiana explains how terribly they treated her:“She was pregnant. They didn’t give her any water or food. They’d beaten her for two weeks. She said she was kept there in an iron box. And there weren’t any doors or windows. She told me that she’d lost consciousness a number of times. The prisoners there could go the toilet only accompanied by a man with a gun to make sure that they wouldn’t drink water. Once they let her go without that accompaniment, but the toilet tank had been closed. She was ashamed to tell me, but she had to drink water straight from the bowl. In addition, she ate cigarettes to feel less hungry. In moments of despair, she cried because of this feeling.”DPR representatives called the girl’s friends in Donetsk and they said she was the one who put special trackers on neighborhood areas in order to bomb the area by battalions, says Tetiana.To find a way to release her daughter, Tetiana connected with representatives of the United Nations, along with the Jewish community. But before they offered to free her daughter, the DPR forced the daughter to give a press conference for the Ministry of Information of DPR. There the daughter had to say that the Pravy Sector, a far-right Ukrainian group, helped her join another military battalion.“Frankly, despite the fact that all this time I’d lived in Donetsk, I didn’t realize what is actually going on until my daughter had been captured. I am not a politician. I want the peace to be all over the world. But I know – it should not be like that. We are not barbarians. We live in the 21st century. There must be a way to resolve the conflict peacefully,” recounts Tetiana.Thankfully, Tetiana’s daughter was released and returned safely to her family. After her release, doctors examined Tetiana’s daughter to make sure the baby wasn’t injured. After so many days of beatings and starvation, the doctors were happy to tell the family that the baby was healthy and unharmed. Because she survived such a horrific experience, Tetiana’s daughter couldn’t stay in Ukraine any longer and wanted to move to Israel right away.The family feels so grateful to The Fellowship for safely flying Tetiana, her husband, their daughter, and her family to the Holy Land on a Fellowship Freedom Flight in September 2015. The baby will be born in Israel and the family will have a new start.Tetiana couldn’t be happier:“I’ll get settled in Israel doing any kind of work. I am a very creative person and in my wedding shop, I made a lot of things by myself. And, of course, I’ll help my daughter with her child. My husband is really concerned about how he will learn Hebrew, though. He had a job in Ukraine and always felt he was the head of the family. But he understands that he wouldn’t be able to live there without us. We always have been interested in Israel and Jewish culture. My mom comes from a Jewish family. My daughter studied at Jewish school. My mother, by the way, comes with us. And my brother will take his large family and come to Israel a little later.”Thanks to The Fellowship, suffering families all across Ukraine, like Tetiana’s family, can find hope and belonging in the Holy Land through the many Freedom Flights to Israel. Tetiana feels so grateful that her new grandchild will grow up without the fear of war and will belong to a community of Jewish people who will help the child grow in faith and learn all the Jewish traditions.

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