Support Israel| Homepage

Baruch HaShem: Maria is in Israel

editor - 14 November 2019

At Christians for Israel in Ukraine we experience a wide range of interesting situations with an average of 500 Olim (immigrants) leaving Ukraine for Israel every month. Maria is one of the many Olim we will never forget. Sometimes God has an unexpected way of fulfilling His plan in our lives. 

About a year ago we received an angry phone call from a woman named Maria. “Why didn’t I get a food parcel while other people did?” Somehow she was not on the list of Jewish senior citizens in need who receive food parcels.

After this phone call, Ira and Carmen went to Maria’s home to meet her and bring her a food parcel. 

Ira and Carmen were shocked by what they saw. Maria started to tell them her life story in an old, cluttered little shack of a house that looked ready to collapse at any minute.

Maria was 3 years old when the war started. Her parents lived in the village of Bar, in Vinnytsja province. As soon as the German troops occupied Bar all the local Jews had to assemble at a central spot in the village. Anyone who was strong enough was put to work and all the others – children and the elderly – were murdered by firing squad at a mass grave just outside of Bar. Maria’s mother succeeded in giving Maria to a Christian woman in Bar. Risking her own life, this woman took care of Maria during the war and saved the girl’s life. Maria’s mother was put to work in a ghetto and survived the war. After the war, Maria and her mother were reunited. Part of her family was among those murdered at the mass grave.

After returning from the ghetto, Maria’s mother discovered that another family had taken up residence in their house. As a result, she was forced to move to Vinnytsja, where they could live in one room of a tiny old house. 

The end of the war did not bring an end to the suffering Maria and her mother experienced. They were left to deal with both the trauma from the war and the negative reactions from the local population. People wondered how Jews like them had been able to survive the war. “Could they have collaborated with the Germans so that they would survive while others didn’t?”

Maria’s mother had trouble finding a job because of her Jewish background. During the Soviet period a special mark was put in your passport if you were Jewish. When she grew up, Maria married and four children were born into the family. 

It was clear to Ira and Carmen that Maria needed to leave this tiny ruin of a house behind as soon as possible and go to Israel where all of her children and grandchildren already lived.  Maria had a different opinion. She was thankful for the food parcel and listening ear, but she didn’t want any other help. She wanted to keep living in Ukraine and not to change her circumstances by moving to Israel. This was partially because she didn’t want to be a burden to her children in Israel. Ira and Carmen left her with a standing offer of help and we kept in contact with her.

One day Maria called us in desperation, asking if we would be able to help her go to Israel as soon as possible. We were dumbfounded: Maria wanted to go to Israel? She told us that part of her hovel had collapsed and she had nowhere else to go.

We immediately brought Maria with all of the necessary documents to the embassy in Kiev, where her visa for Israel was issued in one day. Her son had flown to Ukraine right away to help with her departure to her homeland Israel! Maria’s son did not want to travel on the Sabbath, which meant that I brought them to the airport in the middle of the night. The evening before some of our other drivers had brought other emigrants to our refuge in Kiev to spend the night. Maria did not say much during the trip. At the airport Maria and the other Olim received instructions from the Jewish Agency and then she was given her plane ticket. Afterwards we had some time to talk about the past few days. Maria told us that she had cried for three days. It was hard for her to leave Ukraine behind.  At the end of the conversation I asked how she felt now. She smiled and answered with a quiet voice and a sparkle in her eyes, “Baruch HaShem.” She was ready to take this step now.

She also spoke lovingly about her grandfather who had been a rabbi in a small former stettl called Kapaygorod.

In Israel she is living with her daughter Diana to start with. Her son Arkady and daughter Svetlana made Aliyah in 1991, right after the Iron Curtain fell. Her son works at the police department and her daughter Svetlana is an engineer. The other two daughters made Aliyah in 2014. Ira is a doctor in Israel and Diana is an accountant. Her religious Jewish children are well integrated in Israeli society. In the beginning they all started by learning the language and taking any jobs they could get. Starting out is not easy for emigrants. 

We are happy that because her hovel collapsed Maria is now able to enjoy her children and eight grandchildren in Israel. As she said goodbye, Maria even invited me to come visit next time I am in Israel! Maria was the last member of her family to move to Israel.

There was no time to take a break. The next day more emigrants needed help with their departure. Our drivers and 8 busses were kept busy transporting Olim. I thought about Maria again, about how she had been saved and hidden by a Christian woman when all Jews were being hunted down here. Now, so many years later, Christians had helped her on her way to the Promised Land. It made me think of Psalm 69 verses 34 and 35:

“Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; and His servants shall live there and possess it.”

A picture of Maria in Israel. What a difference compared to the photo taken in Ukraine!


“Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind.” (Ezekiel 39:28)

Help the Jews come home! Please support our action ‘Bring the Jews Home’.
It costs 135 euros or 165 US $ to assist one Ukrainian Jew for making aliyah.
Any amount is welcome!

Donate in €


Donate in US $




About the Author