• Drivers Sergey and Kolya and daughter Lina help Galyna into the van. | Photo: C4I

Saved from Eastern Ukraine just in time

Koen Carlier - 7 June 2023

In recent weeks, Ukraine has again been very unsettled. Especially in big cities like Odessa, Nicolaev, Kherson, Zaporozhe, Nikopol, Kharkiv, Dnepr and, of course, the capital Kiev. One of our staff members who lives in Kiev told us that the last nights and days have been terrible. It felt like drones and missiles were exploding in their apartment complex. He and his family now spend the nights in the hall, which is the ‘safest’ place. If things get too bad, he and his family can go to one of our shelters.

Driving for the drivers is stressful enough. Recently, some trucks and cars have caught fire while driving, due to falling debris from drones. Still: the job remains to help Jewish families evacuate from all over Ukraine, to Moldova and then their one-way trip to Israel. Recently, we received a request from The Jewish Agency to evacuate Galyna. She is a blind woman from Kharkiv, some 40 kilometers from the border with Russia. No sooner said than done. However, she turned out to be not only blind, but also paralyzed on one leg. Her other leg was amputated four years ago due to severe diabetes. Fortunately, in one of our evacuation vans, you can turn the rear bench seat into a bed. Very practical if someone wants to lie down due to illness, physical discomfort or fatigue.

Russian roulette
The woman’s daughter, Lina, had made Aliyah five years ago, along with her husband and daughter. She came all the way from Israel to accompany her mother. Our drivers Kolya and Sergey had just left Kharkiv when another couple of rockets were fired towards the city. You never know if those missiles will be intercepted and, if not, where they will land. It remains Russian roulette, unfortunately! Once out of Kharkiv, we all heaved a sigh of relief. The rest of the first part of the journey, to our shelter in western Ukraine, went smoothly. The second day, via a small border crossing out of Ukraine and into Moldova, also went smoothly.

During our trip to the Moldovan airport, Galyna told us that she had been stubborn and did not want to go to Israel when her daughter left five years ago, and she stayed behind, alone. Galyna had been widowed at an early age. At the local hospital where she worked, she was regularly bullied because of her Jewish heritage. The many air raids, missiles and drone strikes were emotionally difficult for Galyna to cope with. The once beautiful and large city of Kharkiv now looks almost deserted and desolate. Much has been destroyed, or at least damaged. Tens of thousands of people have fled the city since the war began in February 2022. Hundreds of Jews have fled to neighboring countries and left for Israel.

Galyna and Lina at the airport of Kishenov, Moldova. | Photo: C4I

After two days of travel, Galyna felt stressed and was tired, but also very grateful to us. Galyna told us – as a blind woman – that we were helpful drivers, not arrogant at all. Before her departure she had worried about the long journey (given her health condition), but now, she was immensely grateful and relieved. The Israeli consul in Kishenov (capital of Moldova) was already aware of her arrival, so the exit visa had been arranged in no time as well as the flight from Kishenov to Tel Aviv. At the small airport in Kishenov we said goodbye, but not for good! We will visit in Israel later. Two of our staff members regularly go to Israel to visit the people who made Aliyah, young and old, to encourage and comfort them.

After a long journey, Galyna is relieved and can finally smile. | Photo: C4I

The prophet Ezekiel already told that no one would be left behind in the diaspora. The Almighty will also bring back the blind and the lame. This prophecy has been fulfilled for Galyna too!

In the coming days and weeks, more evacuation trips are planned from Dnepr, Kharkiv, Kiev, Chernigov and Poltava, as well as for a group of refugees who had nowhere to go and have been staying in our shelter near Kiev for several weeks, until the day of departure to Israel!

See, I will bring them from the land of the north
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame,
expectant mothers and women in labor;
a great throng will return.
Jeremiah 31:8

Would you like to help? For € 135 or US $ 150, we can help a Jew in Ukraine collect the necessary documents and bring him or her to the airport. Any amount is welcome.

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