A New Life in Israel

The Fellowship  |  October 16, 1999

Rabbi Eckstein and girls welcome Freedom Flight

“Our last name never left room for doubt. Everyone immediately knew we were Jewish”, says Volodymyr Kats, who made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel with his wife Olena and their 11-year-old daughter Kseniia.

The family arrived at The Fellowship’s pre-aliyah seminar from the city of Konstantinovka, which is on the front line of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.  “When the war started in 2014, we didn’t really understand what it was and how long it would last,” Volodymyr says. “People are killed and injured, and homes are damaged. We never knew when they would bomb us again, because there are no alarms. I remember the day when shooting suddenly started in a battle that was really close to our home. We heard noise and went outside and saw everything. We had nowhere to hide. I took my young daughter and my wife’s elderly mother out of town to relatives in a town far from the battle zone. They only returned a few months later. We have a storeroom in the house, under the kitchen. I dug more space there and also made an impromptu exit to the street. I told my wife and 21-year-old son (who remains in Ukraine to finish college) that if there will be a massive bombardment, they could hide in the storeroom, and if the house collapses, they could escape through the exit I dug.”

Volodymyr’s grandfather was murdered during the Holocaust and his grandmother managed to save his father. “When the Germans came, my grandmother fled to the woods along with my father, who was then a boy, and my uncle. Their neighbor informed on my grandfather and said that he was Jewish. My grandfather was murdered along with other Jews and was buried in a mass grave. I make sure to tell my children our family history. It’s important that we know our roots and our family history.”

Volodymyr and his family have never tried to change their last name and have always bravely faced the anti-Semitic statements. “At school, and even in college, I was called all sorts of derogatory names related to my Judaism. Even as an adult, I’ve heard these statements quite a bit.”

As the family was preparing to make aliyah to Israel, they made sure not to tell their neighbors about it.  “I didn’t want them to talk about it. I didn’t want them to hurt my family in any way, so we just didn’t tell anyone except one really good friend of mine. I also told my daughter not to tell anyone. Although she’s very excited and happy that we’re making aliyah to Israel, she has had to keep her joy to herself.”

“I know that in Israel my last name is very popular and good. I know that at last we’ll walk around proudly with our name. We’ll live among our people, connect to our roots, and my daughter will be happy.”

The day before their aliyah to Israel, the family came to The Fellowship’s pre-aliyah seminar in Kiev, while their luggage was picked up in advance. “We learned a lot at the seminar,” Volodymyr and Olena say. “The entire logistical aspect of aliyah works amazingly with The Fellowship. We know that we’ll also receive the financial grant from The Fellowship, which is very significant for us. All of our savings were wiped out. We had a good car, but, of course, we couldn’t sell anything because of the economic situation in the region. We only came with clothes. The Fellowship’s financial assistance is very important during the initial stage of aliyah and we’re very optimistic about the future.”

Their daughter Kseniia, who was an outstanding student in Ukraine, added that she was very excited about making aliyah to Israel. She’s looking forward to going to school and making new friends.

Because of faithful support from friends like you, The Fellowship is able to provide everything Jews like Volodymyr and Olena need to begin a new life in Israel — including airfare, language classes, job training, and a grant to help them start off right in the Holy Land.

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