This week’s Fellowship Freedom Flight allowed 110 Ukrainian Jews to escape their war-torn country and find a new life in the Holy Land. But so many Jews remain in Ukraine, caught in the chaos and conflict. Writing from the devastated city of Mariupol, Ukraine, The Jerusalem Post’s Sam Sokol tells of that city’s Jewish community, a community being helped by The Fellowship and our supporters and partners:
I want to see the war with my own eyes.
In front sit two soldiers of the Dnepr Battalion, a privately funded pro-government militia, a loaded Kalashnikov and two shoulder-fired rockets on the floor between them. We pass several checkpoints with heavy weapons and concrete bunkers hidden behind mounds of dirt and sandbags. Antitank obstacles bracket the road and checkpoints.
Only around 40 percent of the 3,000 or so pre-war inhabitants remain in the village, with the rest having been forced out by rockets fired from across the river …
During the winter when the river froze there were several raids here, one soldier tells me as we pull up to a house with a shattered roof.
A dog barks and pulls at his chain as we get out of the pickup and an old woman pulls her door open a crack to see who we are. She slams the door shut and a minute later reemerges with an elderly man.
They introduce themselves as Volodya and Olga, pensioners and farmers who are living in an outbuilding next to their farmhouse, whose roof is being rebuilt after being hit by a separatist rocket two weeks ago.
Asked if they are scared, they reply that they live in fear and that every day they listen to the sounds of rocket fire, and “if it sounds too loud we go down to the basement.”
They would like to go elsewhere but cannot afford it, they tell me …
Unlike in rebel held areas like Donetsk or Luhansk, refugees from Mariupol frequently come back to the government-controlled city and the Jewish community here, along with the financial backing of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, pays the expenses of those who leave, the rabbi tells me. Most of the aid the community offers has been paid for by the group.