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    This family is ready for a new future in Israel. | Photo: Christians for Israel

It was a turbulent end of the year in Ukraine

Koen Carlier - 9 January 2023

The last weeks of 2022 were very busy for our team in Ukraine. Besides being on the road a lot evacuating Jewish refugees and taking them to the airport in Moldova, we were also busy packing and distributing thousands of food parcels.

When the town of Cherson in southern Ukraine was liberated from the Russian army, we were often there with relief transports. At the same time, we evacuated Jewish families towards Western Ukraine. We took the people who already had their documents in order directly to the Moldovan capital of Kishenov, so that they could fly directly to Israel.

From Cherson to Kishenov is a seven-hour-drive, and more than 400 kilometers, but you never know how long you will have to wait at the border…


Without these four buses, our work would be impossible! | Photo: Christians for Israel


Two of our co-workers made phone calls to all the Jewish families in Cherson, which was quite a job. We offered to evacuate them. The request to make all these phone calls came from the Jewish community in Cherson, with whom we have been working together for years. At first, many people said they did not want to be evacuated, as it was safe again after the Russian army had left.

The Russian army had indeed withdrawn across the huge Dnepr River. However, they kept bombarding the city of Cherson with dozens of missiles, and these missiles all hit residential areas, including hospitals and newly repaired infrastructure.

After that, our phones were ringing red hot. People wanted to be evacuated as soon as possible, and of course, we honoured their request. One advantage was that we could drive straight to Kishenov and did not have to spend the night in one of our shelters.

Strict border controls and air raid

A man who was planning to leave with his wife and elderly, sick mother, thought he had all the necessary documents to leave for Israel. This was partially true, but because of the martial law and mobilization, there are strict border controls. It turned out that some official documents were missing. His wife and mother were allowed to travel further, but since he wasn’t allowed to leave Ukraine, they all decided to stay behind.

For these three people, their journey to Israel was abruptly cut short at the border crossing between Ukraine and Moldova | Photo: Christians for Israel


Fortunately, we took two evacuation vans to the border. One returned, and the other van could continue the journey. This whole hassle caused a lot of stress and a lot of wasted time, as all sorts of documents had to be filled out to explain why you were refused to cross the border.

The air raid went off regularly while we were at the border, so we had to wait for a long time. And to make things worse, the portable toilets at the border were also closed.

The mobile toilets provided by the UN were jammed shut. | Photo: Christians for Israel


Two older Jewish sisters (in their late seventies) with Russian passports coming from the war zone were initially refused entry into Moldova too. However, after two months of waiting in the shelter, they were finally allowed to cross the border. An investigation had revealed that there was no danger in letting them cross the border once!

Thousands of food parcels

It goes on and on: having food delivered, packing food parcels, and finally distributing them. As soon as the warehouse is empty, another delivery is already coming. As we pack and distribute, the phone is constantly ringing for new requests.

For Odessa alone, which is also home to numerous Jewish refugees, this involves 2,000 food parcels every two months; over 20,000 kilograms. The large synagogue now serves as a distribution center to help the many Jews in need.



The end of December meant our last round of packing, which was frequently interrupted by the air raid. Many of the food parcels were taken in trucks to the provinces of Chernigov and Sumy, near the Belarusian and Russian borders. Two areas that also suffered greatly from the violence of war.

Special moments

There were also beautiful and special moments. We were invited twice to join in a Hanukkah celebration in places with continuing power outages. You never get used to the sound of running generators. Fortunately, you don’t get admonished or fined for such noise nuisance.

In Kiev, we also met Abraham, a refugee from Mariupol. We have known him for a long time. He was in charge logistically of the distribution of the food parcels. Not only in Mariupol, but also in other cities like Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, Konstantinovka and Bakhmut, where there is such heavy fighting now.

Our friend Abraham in action! | Photo: Christians for Israel


Abraham was threatened with a knife to his throat in Mariupol twice by a Chechen soldier when the city was already conquered by the Russians. Miraculously, he was able to escape. Abraham now resides in Kiev, where he continues to distribute our food parcels to Jewish refugees coming from Mariupol.

Meanwhile, many refugees from Mariupol who now reside in Kiev have requested our help to evacuate their children and elderly relatives (over 60) to Israel via Moldova.

The New Year

We are not going to speculate too much about what might happen in 2023. However, Ukrainians do yearn for peace. They are war-weary. We will ‘quietly’ continue our work. If peace does come and we can fly from Ukraine to Israel again, our work will be a lot easier because we won’t have to cross the border every time.

On December 31, we received Psalm 31 as encouragement!

For now, we wish you all shalom. We hope we will also be able to help thousands of Jewish families on their way home this year, the year that Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary.

With our team, we remain focused on our mission: food parcels, evacuation and repatriation to Israel. We intend to continue doing so in the time ahead. In these harsh winter months, your support is badly needed.

Would you like to (continue to) support our food parcels campaign in Ukraine? Your donation – especially now – I of vital importance. One food package costs € 15 or US $ 15.

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