Anastasia, 30, found out she was pregnant with her first child right when the conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine started, which made her and her husband, Kostiantyn, 35, nervous for their safety. Kostiantyn decided to move his family to the Zaporizhia region to leave the immediate fighting, “My wife was pregnant at the time; we moved because it was dangerous to give a birth to a child under conditions of constant shelling,” he said. “We took only the things that were necessary, and we left.”
They hoped the conflict would end soon and they could return home after the war ended. But the conflict raged on for many months, and there is still a conflict today.
While in Donetsk, the family lived on the frontlines of the war, and as bombings and gunfire rained over their neighborhood, homes suffered damage and some were demolished: “Our apartment in Donetsk hasn’t been damaged despite the fact that the shells were falling all around the building,” said Kostiantyn. “However, my wife’s parents weren’t so lucky. Their house in the Donetsk region was completely destroyed. It was on the frontline between the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Ukrainian forces.”
Life in Donetsk almost came to a stop according to Kostiantyn. They often hid in the basement to protect themselves from the constant shellfire. And public transportation was shut down in cities with too much violence and fighting, making it difficult to travel to and from work.
Anastasia remembers waking up abruptly in the middle of the night, hearing the bombings, and feeling very anxious because she knew her apartment roof and walls wouldn’t protect her from the explosions. “In the middle of the night I used to jump up when I heard the rumble of shellfire,” she said. “I was pregnant and I knew that I shouldn’t jump up so quickly, but I was sleepy and did it automatically. Wearing only a bathrobe, I quickly ran to the basement. We were living on the 5th floor, but I didn’t use the elevator because there was the danger that the electricity might fail and we’d be stuck there. Therefore, we ran downstairs and sat in the basement where we heard all the noise from the shelling. If there was 15 minutes of silence, it was a sign that we could go out. All of that shelling happened mostly at night.”
Once the shelling ended, the couple still felt as though they were on pins and needles. “We would strain our ears to hear if there were some strange sounds outside,” says Anastasia. “We began to distinguish all these sounds of shelling – when the fire came from our side, when the shells were flying towards us. We were even able to distinguish what kind of weapon they used.
Once the family left Donetsk, they had quite a calm life in the city of Zaporizhia. According to Kostiantyn and Anastasia, the people welcomed them and they quickly found an apartment.
However, while they felt their lives had calmed down in Zaporizhia, after reflecting on their situation, they realized they had a deep desire to move to the Jewish homeland. Their friends had made aliyah, and so they felt encouraged and supported and knew they would know some familiar faces once settled in the Holy Land. They also want their new baby, now a year old, to grow up with a strong Jewish faith, and they know Israel is the best place to connect to the Jewish tradition.
Upon arrival in Israel, Kostiantyn plans to learn Hebrew. He then plans to look for work as an economist, but he also has a degree to work in computer sciences.
Anastasia hopes to find work as a bank employee. At the beginning, though, she’ll devote time to their 1-year-old daughter and to learning Hebrew.
Kostiantyn and Anastasia are both grateful to The Fellowship for helping them make aliyah. “The Fellowship has helped provide us with all the information we need for our new lives,” they say. “The Fellowship employees answered all our phone calls and gave us all the necessary information. They also provided us with extremely useful seminars before the flight. The Fellowship has also helped us find a temporary place to live. Finally, we’re grateful for the financial support that will help us start over from scratch in Israel.”Faces of the Fellowship