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Farewell to Elena

editor - 20 February 2020

Early Tuesday morning, January 28, 2020, I received a phone call from Nataliya from Kiev: “Koen, we did it! Elena has left, together with a large group of emigrants!” I was on my way somewhere, I stopped and continued talking. Which Elena? When I look at the list of who left recently, I can see more than twenty Elenas.

“But Koen!”, Nataliya responded. “You know, the Elena that was chained to her wheelchair, living on the fourth floor without a lift!” “Ah, I see”, I replied. But she had already left by the end of November of last year. “But Koen”, Nataliya said, a bit edgy, “you weren’t listening to me and you didn’t have a good look at the list. We arranged an international passport and an interview at the Israeli Embassy to obtain an exit visa for her.” Yes, I got confused and had listened with one ear indeed…

Fortunately, I have known Nataliya for many years now and she can be a little bit offhand over the phone, but not for long. She continued saying that Elena was very grateful for all the help she got from us from start to finish. Without it she could have never made it. Nataliya is a spirited lady, but while saying goodbye to Elena, when she hugged Nataliya, it was an emotional and difficult moment for her.

“How special that we are able to do this!”

While I am reading Elena’s story again, now that she had left a couple of months later, it is only now that I realize how we managed to provide a tailor-made service for her, helping her from start to finish, involving our drivers Kolya and Ruslan as well. How special that we are able to do this!

The nine mini buses we use to help the Ukrainian Jews in driving them around in preparation of their return to Israel. Handing out of the food parcels is also done with these mini buses.

The last couple of weeks a number of fieldworkers in small groups visited Jewish families, both young and old, but what struck us most was that especially the elderly told us: we don’t know what is happening to us, but there is something that reminds us of Israel all the time and we wonder whether it is time for us to emigrate as well…

Almost every time our answer is the same: it won’t be easy, but afterwards you will realize that it was the right thing to do. How do we know that? Well, simply because that is what we hear from the elderly who left for Israel in the past thanks to our help and have lived there for years already!

“Elderly rarely choose to go to Israel and many of them stay in the Diaspora. But that appears to change now.”

We know that youths can made swift choices. The over-40 take a little bit longer, but the elderly often need a lot of time. They rarely choose to go to Israel and many of them stay in the Diaspora. But that appears to change now, as we can see in the 65-year old Elena, who left by the end of January, despite of all the obstacles that kept her in Ukraine.

A group of Jewish emigrants in the hiding place near Kiev, where they can stay before we take them to the airport in Kiev for their departure to Israel | Photo: Christians for Israel

Monday February 17, another group of olim is leaving. Fieldworkers Sergey and myself will take a family from Ternopol in Western Ukraine to our shelter near Kiev to spend the night and from there to their flight from the airport.

Psalm 137 speaks about “How can we sing about Jerusalem while in a foreign land?” Who knows how many elderly people will behold Jerusalem this year and break into a song of praise for the Lord? Will you help them with that?

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A number of the other emigrants who left for Israel on January 28 | Photo: Christians for Israel

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