• Anna (43) is fleeing to Israel with her son Benjamin (8), but had to leave her husband and son behind | Photo: Christians for Israel
SOS Ukraine

Jewish refugees: “It hurts so incredibly to have to leave them behind”

Rita Quartel - 24 March 2022

Bombed apartment buildings, burnt-out cars, a street strewn with smoking debris. It looks like a scene from an old war film, but it is the harsh reality in Chernigov, a city in Eastern Ukraine, not even forty kilometers from the border with Belarus. The photos Nikolai (62) is showing me depict the battle field in his very own street.

He finds it difficult to give words to what happened in his hometown in the past weeks. “You can only feel this pain. Now I know exactly the difference between the sound of a gunshot, grenade, tank or bomb.” The permanent air raid sirens, the incessant bombardments, the fear and uncertainty are very hard. If there is subsequently also no more gas, electricity or water, the choice to flee is quickly made.

In the photograph below you see Nikolai with his family and a photograph of a bombed apartment building in their home town. Click the photo to enlarge, text continues under the photos.



Together with his wife Natalya (61), daughter-in-law Valeriya (30) and grandson Mark (1) Nikolai flees Chernigov. But that is not so easy. The first time it went terribly wrong. The only route to escape Chernigov is via a bridge which is constantly under fire. Only fifteen cars a time are allowed to cross the bridge. If it turns out that the bridge is not shot at or bombed, the next fifteen cars are allowed to leave.

“Now I know exactly the difference between the sound of a gunshot, grenade, tank or bomb – Nikolai (62) from Eastern Ukraine”

Because of the fighting at the bridge Nikolai and his family unfortunately have to turn right around, back into the war zone. The second attempt is more successful. Nikolai: “When we were leaving the city, we saw so much destruction, burning tanks, roads shot to pieces, again very unreal.” Ultimately, it took them five hours before they got into safer grounds. By the time they pass Kyiv, they have been on their way for seven hours. The distance? One hundred and forty kilometers. It took them another three hours to get past Kyiv.

In Christians for Israel’s shelter in the south-western part of Ukraine they can catch their breath. They didn’t know our organisation yet, but Christians for Israel was recommended to them by a friend. Nikolai: “Everything was very well organised there. We didn’t expect that.” Two days later they cross the Moldovan border with a group of nearly fifty other Jewish refugees, on their way to a new life in Israel.

The violence of war is behind them, but the price is high. Nikolai’s and Natalya’s three sons must stay behind, amongst whom are Valeriya’s husband and Mark’s father. The question when they will meet again is not uttered, but hangs in the air like an oppressive thought.

Also one-year-old Timofey must do without his father for the time being. Together with his mother Yevgeniya (21) he is on his way to Israel, where his granddad and grandmother already live. They come from Borispol where amongst others, the airport was bombed, and there were several grenade attacks.

Text continues under the photo.

Yevgeniya (21) and her son Timofey (1) | Photo: Christians for Israel

A good life
Yevgeniya’s departure has everything to do with her son and his safety. “If he hadn’t been there, I would have stayed in Ukraine, but I want to offer him a quiet and good life.” As a matter of fact, Yevgeniya and her husband wanted to leave for Israel two years ago already, but because of the pregnancy they delayed their departure. And now they are forced to say goodbye.

“It is impossible to separate a family, it hurts so incredibly to have to leave them behind, but I do it for my youngest son”

A similar goodbye as well for Anna (43) and her son Benjamin (8) from Nikolajev, in the south-east of Ukraine. Her husband and 23-year-old son are not allowed out of the country. Anna: “There are no words for that. It is impossible to separate a family, It hurts so incredibly to have to leave them behind, but I do it for my youngest son. If the city is surrounded and threatened to be isolated, two men have a bigger chance to survive than when children are involved.”

In the surroundings of Nikolajev, shooting has been going on for weeks, and the fighting is getting closer. Anna seized the last opportunity to leave and traveled through Odessa to Christians for Israel’s shelter. She is very grateful for all the help and the great way that help is organised. In the first instance she hopes to be able to live with her sister in Israel. In her the hope also lives that her husband and son can join them real soon, also because of the fact that they already had plans, a couple of years ago, to make aliyah as a family. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was difficult to obtain the necessary papers in time.

Jewish identity
Yelena (52) from Krivoy Rog is traveling to Israel on her own. Her parents have died and she has no other relatives. She does leave a lot of dear friends behind in her home town in Eastern Ukraine. “Two weeks ago, I still ignored the air raid siren, but when Dnjepr was bombed everything was getting really close. It frightened me a lot, and therefore I decided to flee. Also because I didn’t want to be any one elses problem. I am responsible for my own life.”


Yelena (52) is traveling to Israel on her own | Photo: Christians for Israel

Yelena, in daily life working as a teacher and journalist, was actively participating in the Jewish community in her home town. Her Jewish identity has played an important role from childhood onwards. Christians for Israel is also not unknown to her, partly because her mother always received food parcels. She is impressed by the way Christians for Israel supports her and other Jewish people, especially now in this war situation. “I can only say: Thanks, thanks, thanks!” So far, she saw herself as a part of Israel, but then living in Ukraine. It is all going to be different now. Full of confidence she will build a new future in Israel, even though the wound of the sudden goodbye is not yet healed.

I am touched by the stories of these courageous people when I join them during the bus ride from the border of Moldova to the capital of Kishenov and the ensuing meal and overnight stay. They even thanked me for being able to share their story with me. It reminded me of Isaiah 40:1:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”

A task that we are able to fulfil in such a special way at this very moment. Will you help to offer these thousands of Jewish refugees a safe haven in Israel?

“Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations, and raise My signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.” (Isaiah 49:22).

Christians for Israel has already evacuated more than 2,000 Jewish men, women and children. In these days we see the prophecy being fulfilled.


How can you help?

I ask you to pray for our drivers who are on the road every day for hours on end with all its dangers, for our volunteers who commit themselves selflessly for the Jewish people and also that the borders may stay open and will not be bombed. So that God’s people can be escorted and from the Land of the North can make Aliyah 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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