• This week a group of 58 Jewish men, women and children left for Israel | Photo Christians for Israel by Alisa Rostovtseva
SOS Ukraine

In the diaspora, or being brought home…

Koen Carlier - 3 May 2022

Being lost is something we surely all recognize and occasionally experience. Sometimes you feel completely lost. Especially during a war it is vitally important to be alert. Yet, last week I literally lost my way for a while…

Towards Eastern Ukraine
We were on our way with a bus and a minibus towards the east of Ukraine to collect Jewish refugees. One of the drivers was at the steering wheel and I dozed off for a minute. We were on our way in a certain direction, but because of several unexpected road blocks, we had to change our course. At a certain moment the driver asked: “Koen, which road do we have to take?” Our navigation system pointed in a certain direction. This route was not correct, because I knew that roadworks had been going on for a long time and you had to make a long detour.

I asked the driver to drive on a bit. I recognized the route a little bit, so I would navigate to our destination. At a certain moment I recognized something and told the driver to turn right. We drove on and met one roadblock after the other. Some were more heavily guarded than others, while some roadblocks looked like fortified castles.

Roadblocks on our way | Photo: Christians for Israel by Alisa Rostovtseva

In the mean time I didn’t recognize the road so well. Could we have gone the wrong way after all? At a certain moment we asked someone for directions. It soon became clear that we had gone completely the wrong way. We even had nearly reached Russian occupied territory! Via shortcuts and other small roads we should get back on the right track. That is what we did. We ended up on all kinds of bad roads with potholes and roadblocks. We were constantly stopped by Ukrainian soldiers. “You are not supposed to drive here”, they told us. I answered in the affirmative, but explained that because of my absentmindedness I had lost the way. The soldiers understood and allowed us to drive on: “Go ahead, but be careful. On a certain moment you surely will reach the right way towards the east.”

So, that was a bit of a shock, we just didn’t break out in a sweat. Since the beginning of the war we had been very alert and vigilant. Sometimes important decisions had to be made fast and then it is vital to keep your head cool. But that particular moment when I was less attentive could have major consequences. Just suppose that we would have ended up in Russian occupied territory, would be stopped or even worse: that our bus would be confiscated. That is something we of course do not wish to experience.

Fortunately everything has worked out for the best and we arrived at our destination.

“Being less attentive for one moment can have major consequences”

When we arrived at our lodgings in the big city, the streets of the city were all practically deserted. It was 18.45 hours and the curfew started at 19.00 hours. So, we had arrived just in time at our shelter. The next morning we collected Jewish refugees at different boarding points for a long journey back to Western Ukraine.

In our bus there were several passengers with moving stories. Ira was one of them. She comes from the heavily besieged city of Mariupol. When her apartment in the center was bombed, she could only just grab her handbag. Her suitcase was ready as well, but there was no time to take it with her. She could only just climb from the fourth to the third floor. From the third floor she could jump from a porch to the ground floor. That was a long way down. A doctor who examined her later said: “You have had a guardian angel. It is a miracle you didn’t break anything.”

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There was another couple on the bus as well. The husband was more than sixty years old and was helping Ukrainian soldiers as a volunteer. The soldiers told him that his hometown would be captured soon by the Russians. They advised him to leave. He went to the local synagogue. People told him that the next day at 8 o’clock in the morning a bus would leave. The husband answered that they couldn’t make it to leave the next day already. But guess who was waiting the next morning at 7 o’clock, ready to leave? It was the same man, together with his wife. They were grateful that they got the opportunity to leave unexpectedly.

Another family of seven didn’t know where to go. They wanted to leave Ukraine and go to Israel, and then what? Where did they have to go once in Israel? We gave them the address of the project “First Home in the Homeland”. If everything goes well, they will be accommodated in a kibbutz during the first five months. There the children can attend school and the parents will receive Hebrew lessons for five months and will be helped on their way.

Not only young families with children leave for Israel. Elderly people and Holocaust survivors are evacuated as well. There was an elderly lady of 92 years old which was bedridden. We collected her together with her daughter from a small town in East Ukraine and took her to Kishenov in Moldova.

Oldest passenger
But the surprise of the day was that we were able to escort the almost 99-year-old Ludmila and her 70-year-old daughter on their way to Israel. Ludmila was living in an apartment on the fourth floor and she had not been outside for years. It took more than one hour to get her from her home into the minibus, but fortunately everything went well. Ludmila said: “If the Lord wants me to go to Israel, then He will also bring me safely there.”


The almost 99-year-old Ludmila and her daughter Larissa | Photo: Christians for Israel by Alisa Rostovtseva

“If the Lord wants me to go to Israel, then He will also bring me safely there”

All in all it was a group of very special people, each one with their own story. Everyone was very grateful for the help we and our team were able to provide. Last Thursday they flew to Israel and all 58 Jewish refugees came home in the Promised Land!

What are we going to do now? We are already on our way back to Eastern Ukraine to collect a new group. We will continue as long as possible, until the last Ukrainian Jews will put their feet on Israeli soil.

Watch the video of Ludmila, who is on her way together with her daughter Larissa to the Promised Land.


Emergency Assistance
Jewish refugees are brought from our shelter in Ukraine to Moldova. Buses then bring them to airports in either Moldova or 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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