Though The Fellowship is now flying our own Freedom Flights regularly out of war-torn Ukraine, granting these war-weary Ukrainian Jews a new life in Israel, we are still offering assistance on the ground to those unable to leave.
According to recent reports from Rabbi David Mondshine – of the Federation of Jewish Communities, a Fellowship partner organization located in Ukraine – the situation there is still bleak. An explosion rocked the militant-occupied city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine two weeks ago. Residents in several city districts could feel the shock wave from the blast, and residents from miles around could see the thick black smoke.
Ukrainian army positions in Donbas came under attack 58 times, some from weapons that have been outlawed by the Minsk peace declaration. At least six Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in recent conflicts and three civilians were wounded during the night from a mortar attack in Donetsk. Due to closed checkpoints in parts of Ukraine, it is still impossible to deliver food to large groups of vulnerable civilians residing across the contact line.
Providing Lifesaving Aid
Fellowship staff member Eva Geller recently visited several families in Ukraine ahead of The Fellowship’s most recent Freedom Flight that brought 90 Ukrainian Jewish refugees to Israel. Here, Eva shares the story of a family from Donetsk that is considering making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) on a future flight. Victor, 68, and his wife, Vera, are currently living in Kiev with their daughter Alla, her husband Igor, and their two children, 14-year-old Alisa and 5-year-old Nina.
In August 2014, the family left Donetsk to escape from the violence and fighting. They left quickly with only one suitcase because they thought that in a week or two, the conflict would be over, and that they could avoid it by taking a short trip.
Igor had a business in Donetsk, and was able to comfortably support the whole family. Alla says that in her worst nightmares, she never imagined they would ever permanently leave Donetsk and the family business. But when they returned home from their brief trip, things only got worse.
The family lived in the center of the city, and so they were constantly surrounded by fighting. Many people would walk around the town with guns and weapons, and Alla was even afraid to let her children outside. “You can see that we’re Jews,” she explained. “Who knows what the crazy people with the guns would decide to do with us? I couldn’t take the risk that someone would hurt my children.”
When the adults would run errands, they were lucky to find a supermarket or bank that was open. Victor has diabetes, but he had no way to get the medicine he needed in Donetsk. The only thing keeping this family going was the financial aid they received from the Fellowship-sponsored Hesed organization.
Finally, the family decided it was time to leave for good. A month ago, they relocated to Kiev, where they are waiting out the war. In Donetsk, they had a large home and several cars, and now they live in a small apartment. They had to leave everything behind, but thankfully, The Fellowship is continuing to help them, providing them with basic necessities.
"When we ran to Kiev, we had absolutely nothing,” Alla said. “The first night, we had only our towels, so I used them as blankets for my children. We had nothing without this amazing aid you gave us. Our food, clothing, and apartment is paid for, thanks to you."
The family is surviving in Kiev, but the situation is very tough for them. They aren’t used to asking for so much. “Before this, we were giving money to the Jewish community,” Alla said. “Now, we are ashamed to ask for this aid, but what can we do? We have nothing.”
They have all the documents needed for making aliyah, but the family is holding off a little bit longer, waiting to see if they will be able to stay in Ukraine. No matter what happens, they are so thankful to know they have The Fellowship looking out for them!