Sixteen-year-old David from Ukraine already knows some Hebrew and dreams of serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) once he makes aliyah (immigrates to Israel) on a Fellowship Freedom Flight. David’s Jewish upbringing makes him proud to finally move home to Israel.
Like many Ukrainian families, David’s started considering aliyah when war broke out in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. “All of our relatives left and moved to Israel,” says Yulia, David’s mother. “We’re the only members of our extended family who have been living in this dangerous area for all three years of the conflict, which, over and over again, became a target for two opposing forces: the pro-Russian militants and the Ukrainian regular army.”
When the war broke out, Yulia was taking care of her newborn son, Nazar. She hoped to return to her job at the bank, but her office was shut down because of the war’s economic consequences. “My husband, Vasyl, had worked for a while at the same bank, but it was shut down eventually. In order to provide our family with life’s necessities, he had to work in Russia for some time. I stopped looking for a job because it was almost impossible to find. Businesses started to turn away from the war-torn territories. Those that remained couldn’t offer decent salaries.”
According to Yulia, no military operations directly struck their town. “However, during moments of escalation, echoes of the war were heard near our home. When this happened, we tried to protect ourselves as much as possible. It wasn’t safe on streets. There was lots of crime and looting. We didn’t leave the area because we were waiting for the moment when we would be approved for aliyah to Israel.”
Sometimes, however, the family had to leave the war-torn area. Yulia explains: “When David turned 16, he needed a passport. In order to get him one, we had to endure exhausting trips from the occupied territory through numerous military checkpoints. Those trips were always dangerous because nobody knew when the shelling might reach the civilians. It might happen at any time. Nevertheless, we made such trips several times. The first time was to get a Ukrainian passport for David. The second time was to get a foreign passport and visa to Israel. It wasn’t easy, but the Fellowship-supported Jewish organization in the Donbass region helped our family through this process.”
According to Yulia, the family wanted to leave Ukraine in 2014, but the process of obtaining all the documents and permits for aliyah took three years.
“Israel is the only country that can help us. It’s only there that we and our children can be safe. We didn’t give up earlier and are looking forward with hope,” says Yulia.
Yulia and Vasyl are eager to learn Hebrew. “It’s essential to know the language of the country you are going to live in,” says Yulia. “I also hope my diploma as a financier will be recognized. In any event, we’re ready to work in any job in order to start a life in Israel. Although breaking the ties with Ukraine after 39 years of living there isn’t easy, a new life awaits us ahead!”
The family is proud of the fact they are returning to their historical homeland. “During the time we lived in Ukraine, we were always interested in the history of our family,” says Yulia. “We even visited the places where our old relatives lived. Unfortunately, we couldn’t trace the history of all their ancestors. This is particularly because of the fact that during the time of the Soviet Union, Jews often had to hide their real family names.
“I remember the times when my classmates mocked me because of my Jewish maiden name. However, I haven’t encountered anti-Semitism in modern Ukraine. Our son David is very proud of his Jewish origins and he always tells his friends about it. Once we get to Israel we’ll continue to study the history of the Jewish people.”
The family feels blessed to make aliyah with The Fellowship. “The financial and emotional support has been very helpful and invaluable to us. Thank you for being there for us.”Tags: Faces of the Fellowship