The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews helps families fleeing war in Ukraine

The Fellowship  |  March 9, 2022

Couple in Ukraine helped by IFCJ
(Photo: courtesy)

As the war in Ukraine intensifies, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) continues to get reports from families enduring the crisis. Fellowship staff and volunteers are keeping in touch with those in danger to help find ways to get them to safety, or to help them evacuate the country altogether. One family in particular is fortunate to still be alive, and have volunteered to share their story.

Roman and Vika, who are pregnant with their first child, were scheduled to leave Ukraine and immigrate to Israel on February 20 — just three days before the invasion — on a Fellowship sponsored flight from Ukraine to Israel. But Vika’s Covid test came back positive, so they had to stay behind. “The Fellowship booked us for the next flight in a couple of weeks,” Roman said, so they weren’t too worried. “I went to my grandmother’s place to visit her and to tell her the news that our flight was delayed. I came back home, and we went to sleep. Nothing foretold the horror that started in 5 hours.”

“The first explosion came around 5:00 a.m.,” Roman says, describing what unfolded the next morning. “We were in Dnipro, a peaceful city in the middle of Europe. What does it mean? We were attacked? How is it even possible? We didn’t have much time to understand the tragedy of the situation. We had our own drama,” said Roman. “My wife is pregnant. Recently, we lost our previous pregnancy, and now I have only one mission: to save this baby and my wife.”

“I told my wife to pack as quickly as possible – only the most important things,” Roman told Fellowship staff. “We got into the car and started driving without knowing exactly where we were going. We knew only that it’s best to go west.”

Before Roman and his family left, his mother called him from Israel. She urged them to get to Lviv because there were Israeli diplomats there who could help them. “I also called The Fellowship, to inform them that we were moving west,” said Roman. “They told me that they would try to connect us with their team near the border.” 

“We got to Kryvyi Rih, but the entrance to the city was blocked by trees that someone cut down, probably to prevent Russians from entering the city,” Roman went on to say. They then turned in a different direction and continued on their journey. 

“We drove more hours, endless hours,” said Roman. “I was afraid to stop or to slow down, because we continued to hear explosions.”

Roman then learned that they were driving into the line of Russian artillery fire. “I wanted to turn away immediately, but then we got into a huge traffic jam,” he said. Imagine numerous vehicles filled with women and children, no one able to move forward, and “everybody knows that an artillery attack could start any minute, directly on us,” Roman exclaimed.

When given the opportunity, Roman decided to make a turn and move in the direction of Moldova. They were desperate to get out of the line of fire. “We drove to Tulchin,” he said, “a little place that is 80 kilometers away from the Moldovan border.”

“We were almost out of gas,” said Roman, and they still hadn’t made it to Tulchin when they got a message on their phone informing them that “any minute, this area is going to be attacked.”

When they finally arrived in Tulchin, they found a guest house, but no rooms were available. “So we decided to sleep in the car,” said Roman. “But I parked the car near the house.” It seemed to be the safest decision, he said.

“In the middle of the night, we heard the sirens,” Roman exclaimed. “We ran to the house, they let us in, and we got downstairs to a little basement where all their guests were gathered already. We spent the rest of the night there, and in the morning, four men including myself decided to go and get some provisions. When we were on our way back, my wife texted me to hurry up, because there was an announcement that in this area there will probably be a Russian attack.”

“We were lucky and ran away before they got there,” said Roman.

“My mother is getting crazy there in Israel,” Roman concluded. “She begs me to at least send my wife out of Ukraine.”

Roman and Vika have their passports now and are prepared to finally make aliyah (immigrate to Israel). They are in touch with The Fellowship, awaiting an opportunity to jump on the next available flight. To learn more about what Roman and Vika are dealing with, or to hear more stories about how the crisis is affecting families throughout Ukraine, Fellowship president and CEO Yael Eckstein is available to discuss ongoing efforts to evacuate many of those in harm’s way.

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