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SOS Ukraine

Update Ukraine: “I felt like a refugee myself”

Koen Carlier - 10 March 2022

In the past nights I experienced something new. In the previous week I thought: I have probably experienced everything by now. But this turned out not to be the case. Last night I slept for one hour. How come? You will read that in this update, written at the Romanian border, where we are having breakfast with 250 Jewish refugees in a refugee camp. Never thought I would experience this.

In our previous update, you read more about the 110 Jewish refugees, part of them came through our shelter in western Ukraine. The other part came from from Bela Tserkov (near Kiev). Our idea was that all the refugees would leave from one location in western Ukraine, and that from there we would go to the border together. But the group from Bela Tserkov said, “No, we will come to the border ourselves, and then we will see.” “Then we’ll see”, made things difficult…. We had to wait five hours at the border for the group from Bela Tserkov. But in the end our 110 Jewish refugees left, directly to Bucharest where the Jewish Agency had arranged a hotel for them.

How come the waiting times are so long?
The influx of refugees from Ukraine is unprecedented. No one was prepared for these amounts of people. Waiting times at the borders are sometimes up to seven to eight hours. In addition, traveling in Ukraine is extremely unpredictable and dangerous. A trip that would normally take 3 hours can easily take more than 24 hours under these conditions. Due to roadblocks, bombed bridges and roads, air raid sirens and shelling. In addition, Ukraine has a strict curfew, so traveling at night is not an option. These long waiting times at the borders are not only a problem in Ukraine, but due to the enormous influx of refugees, the borders to neighboring countries are also almost completely blocked.

However, something else happened. On Monday we received a phone call asking if we could arrange transportation to Romania for another group of 250 Jewish refugees who were on their way from Dnepropetrovsk (eastern Ukraine) to the border with Moldova. The group included refugees from Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhe and Mariupol. Then the long wait began for me and my good friend Nick. After a full day of waiting for the first group, we had to wait another twelve hours at the border for this group, until 5 a.m. From 1 to 2 a.m I had fallen asleep for a while. That’s the only sleep I had that night.

Do not leave me behind!
Eventually our entire group was present at 5 a.m. Nick: “I have never seen such fear in people’s eyes. Fear that we would leave them behind”. The buses were overcrowded, but it we succeeded. This group is now traveling to various places in Moldova and Romania. We have no option but to split up the group, as there are hardly any places to sleep. Our group includes a number of Holocaust survivors, as well as children. They have been on the road for over 36 hours, everyone is exhausted.

“I have never seen such fear in people’s eyes. Fear that we would leave them behind”

After a few hours we arrive in Romania where we were received in a refugee camp and were allowed to have breakfast. Everyone is happy that there is something to eat. We will then continue our journey to a village not far from this refugee camp. From there, a Christian bus company will take our Jewish refugees to Bucharest, or another location where they can spend the night.

Support in the midst of chaos
These are troubled times. The chaos is tremendous. Fortunately, we are getting a lot of help from our friends at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who are also at the border helping Israeli citizens. They are also prepared to help us with the huge logistical challenges we face.

On the 8th of March it was International Women’s Day: a big holiday in the former Soviet Union. To our surprise, the Romanian customs officers entered the buses to hand out flowers to all the ladies on the buses. That was very special. Most refugees are women, because the men between the ages of 18 and 60 are required to stay in Ukraine.

My friend Nick who is helping out as a volunteer in Moldova just handed me a sandwich. I almost feel like a refugee myself.

“This week we will have helped more than a thousand Jewish refugees altogether”

We are getting ready to receive another group of 120 refugees at the border. This week we will have helped more than a thousand Jewish refugees altogether – from Ukraine, through Moldova and Romania, and then hopefully soon to the Promised Land. God is bringing His people home, as described:  “I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.” Jeremiah 32:41

We are exhausted, but we feel privileged to be able to serve the Jewish people in these days. We continue to move forward one step at a time. Every step is a miracle, we live from day to day.

Emergency Assistance
Jewish refugees are brought from Ukraine to Moldova. Because the airspace in Moldova is closed, buses are bringing the people to Romania. From there, they are brought to Israel. The expense of such a bus trip is € 4000 or $4400. This is about € 100 or $110 per person. Would you like to assist one or more Jewish refugees with their evacuation and emigration to Israel? Or do you want to sponsor a whole bus? Please support our emergency campaign. Your support is of vital importance. Thank you in advance!

 

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