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Ukrainian Holocaust Survivors Forced to Flee Again

Yom HaShoah is Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, and many survivors have ended up in the Holy Land, their historic homeland. Yet there are many more survivors still living in poverty and danger elsewhere. CNN gives the story of Gregory Margolin, an elderly Holocaust survivor who The Fellowship brought to Israel from Ukraine this year:

One war was enough for Gregory Margolin.

Now 87 years old, he was a 16-year-old Jewish recruit when he fought in the Soviet Red Army. As he fought the Nazis in World War II, his family fled.

“I did not show that I was Jewish,” Margolin says. “But it did not matter because people were being killed left and right. All around me.”

This year, in Ukraine, he found himself again surrounded by war.

Margolin was a sniper who rose to be a commander in the army. His old uniform is still adorned with medals from his time in the military. His granddaughter Liora still marvels at his stories from the war. She is amazed that he managed to survive. Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative condition that impairs memory, he struggles to remember his own life sometimes, but he remembers the horrors of war.

His eyes slowly shift back and forth as he seeks the right word. Or perhaps the right memory. His hands shake ever so slightly. It seems he knows he has lived a life. He is just trying to remember all the details.

“People were hiding in shelters under the ground,” Liora says of the stories Margolin once told. “They were being shot at point blank range. It was terrible.”

“[The Nazis] would have erased us from the Earth,” Margolin remembers. “They attacked us and we fought back…”

Margolin came over in a wave of Ukrainian Jewish immigration to Israel that coincided with the beginning of hostilities in Eastern Ukraine. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, an organization that works to build interfaith understanding and support for Israel, has brought 600 Jews to Israel since December, Margolin among them.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the fellowship’s founder, says, “We set up a refugee center. It’s the first time since the Holocaust that the Jewish world has had to set up a refugee center for these Jews who are fleeing and have nowhere to go.”

Read Yael Eckstein’s account of welcoming The Fellowship’s Freedom Flight that brought Gregory and his family to their new home in Israel.

Tags: Holocaust , IFCJ , Ukraine

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