Gadi Tiechman Dan: Ukraine One Year Later
When Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine more than a year ago, no one imagined that the brutal war would still be raging today. As the world marks this tragic anniversary, host Yael Eckstein welcomes to the podcast Gadi Teichman Dan, who has made numerous trips to Ukraine and Moldova since the war broke out, providing lifesaving assistance with The Fellowship’s Israel staff. Gadi shares his heart for the suffering he has witnessed among the Ukrainian people, as well as his unflagging passion for bringing them aid and comfort. As Russia increases its destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure, Gadi says the needs of the people are growing even greater. Don’t miss this emotional and eye-opening conversation.
Gadi Teichman Dan is not unfamiliar with the threat and terror of war. As an Israeli who served for three years with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Gadi understands the nature of military operations. Living close to the Gaza border, he also knows what it’s like to live under rocket fire.
But nothing prepared him for what he saw and experienced in those early days of the war in Ukraine.
As part of the marketing and communications team with The Fellowship’s Israel office, Gadi spends a good portion of his work visiting the many Fellowship-sponsored projects in Israel and talking with the recipients of Fellowship humanitarian aid. So when The Fellowship opened a makeshift office in Moldova to assist the thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine in the early days of the war, Gadi went along with other members of the Israeli office.
Because The Fellowship has been on the ground in Ukraine for the past thirty years, providing aid and assistance to orphanages and Holocaust survivors, it was uniquely positioned to immediately respond to the situation in Ukraine when war broke out. But even then, Gadi and the team encountered numerous difficulties in helping the people there.
“Just getting to Moldova, I realized that this was something completely different,” Gadi told podcast host Yael Eckstein, President and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. “Normally, it takes two and a half hours to get to Moldova from Tel Aviv. But the Moldovan air space was closed and my journey took 18 hours.
“Even as I understood the meaning of war, this was a completely different war,” he said. “This was one of the largest military forces invading Ukraine. There was a constant shelling, cities under fire, and so many people having to just stop everything and leave.”
On the ground, as Gadi and the team approached the Moldovan border with Ukraine, he witnessed long lines of cars waiting to cross the border. Mothers—carrying their babies, with older children in tow and lugging suitcases behind—walked for miles in sub-freezing temperatures and snow to find safety and refuge.
“Honestly, it was very emotional and very, very difficult. Nothing could prepare me for the things I saw on the border. It was like being in a World War II movie set, but suddenly realizing that this was not a movie. This was real,” Gadi recalled. “Seeing this made me cry. I still get tears in my eyes when I remember it.”
For Gadi, the war in Ukraine was very personal. “I was born in Ukraine, and my family made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) 33 years ago. There’s not a day that passes when I am not thanking my parents for making that decision and for bringing me to Israel,” he said. “I have two children, ages 7 and 8, and I remember talking to this woman, who had two children similar to the ages of my children. She lived in Kiev, and she was talking about how she had to wake up her son and tell him that they had to leave immediately. That could have been me.”
Gadi has since returned to Ukraine on numerous humanitarian visits, and on a recent trip to a town in southern Ukraine nearly occupied by the Russians, he said the people there are suffering just to procure basic needs like water and food. “There is no electricity, so the things that we take for granted are luxuries for them. The people there rely on organizations like ours to provide them with basic needs.”
Since the war broke out, The Fellowship has provided $28 million in emergency aid to help the people of Ukraine—the largest and most comprehensive emergency response in The Fellowship’s 40-year history. They have sent seven planes carrying 95 tons of humanitarian aid to refugees and stranded Ukrainians, rescued more than 1,600 orphans, and brought nearly 5,000 Ukrainian Jews to Israel to begin a new life in the Holy Land.
As the war continues with no end in sight, the needs are only increasing. Gadi wants people to remember that the war and the suffering in Ukraine have not ended. “Even if you’re not hearing about the war on a daily basis in the news, the situation is still very difficult. People still are in danger. People still need the help and support from us. So we need to keep our work going. We need to continue to support the Ukrainian people.”