“Everything Could Change In An Instant”: Vitalii’s Story
Oksana: One Refugee Mother’s Story
On March 5, Olga was asked if she could leave war-torn Dnipro within two hours, and The Jewish Agency would evacuate her and her son Ruslan (12). Olga packed bags with food and clothing and they left. They spent that night in Krivoi Rog, where Olga’s friend Nelly, who had been thinking about Aliyah for years, had lived. Now, Nelly, too, had to make a decision quickly, and she joined Olga and left for Romania. Both women’s husbands stayed behind to fight in the war.
Olga remembers. “We crossed the border, and a Jewish Agency representative gave us hot meals. We were then taken to a nearby village and were sheltered for two days. Upon arriving in Bucharest, The Jewish Agency gave us a hotel room and I opened my suitcase to find that it contained my husband’s things instead of mine. I laughed and cried, hoping that he will join us.”
By March 13, The Jewish Agency took Olga, Nelly, and Ruslan to their flight to Tel Aviv and from there they went to stay temporarily in Be’er Sheva. Nelly had heard about First Home in the Homeland and contacted the program director, who immediately met them in Be’er Sheva and gave them money, SIM cards, and – most importantly – assurance that they would be cared for.
Just two weeks after leaving their homes, Nelly, Olga, and Ruslan were comfortably settled in an apartment at Kibbutz Revivim, and registered for Hebrew classes. “Only now do we feel better. There are people protecting us and giving us hope for the future.” Nelly noted, “It’s hard to think about what we went through, and harder to think about those not able to flee. But I’m grateful to this kibbutz, and to The Jewish Agency. This is the best place to recover and start a new life.”
Nelly works at Ben Gurion Airport and lives in Be’er Sheva near her son. Olga and Ruslan live in Ashdod with Olga’s mother; she works two jobs while studying Hebrew, and Ruslan is in 7th grade. Both women say that they miss their husbands, but are doing ok and overcoming their challenges.
JFNA Update 1/13 - A secret operation, funded by Jewish Federations, to provide crucial generators to Ukrainian Jews to help them survive the winter, became public this week. The Jewish Relief Network Ukraine is distributing 150 generators to schools, community centers and synagogues. The generators are especially needed because of the Russian airstrikes that have knocked out large portions of the electric grid across the country. For more, click here.
JDC's newest accommodation point in Moldova
The Jewish Federation of Ocean County has already sent funds to provide immediate relief in this crisis. Our overseas philanthropic partners have stepped up to help the Jewish community at risk in Ukraine and those who have now become refugees elsewhere in Europe.
Our partners at the JDC, the primary Jewish social service agency in eastern Europe, work in more than 1,000 locations across Ukraine, providing a lifeline for an estimated 40,000 Jewish elderly and 2,500 poor Jewish children and their families through its network of care services, Jewish community programs, and Jewish leaders. Today, they are:
· Continuing to provide those they serve with extra essentials like food and medicine.
· Coordinating and handling displaced persons including arranging transport and accommodations in Western Ukraine, Moldova and across Europe.
· Activating online platforms and hotlines created during the pandemic in Ukraine, while also launching new hotlines in Moldova and Israel staffed by Russian-speaking volunteers, to deliver remote care and maintain human connection with those they serve. In addition, JOINTECH, the remote care tech initiative launched in 2020 to help combat loneliness among isolated Jewish seniors during the pandemic, is now being used for Shabbat and community programming to provide reprieve during this crisis
· Engaging and readying volunteers, staff and network of Hesed social service centers to address emerging needs as events unfold.
· Coordinating emergency response with other agencies on the ground to ensure critical assistance reaches Jews of all ages in distress across the region.
Israel's government estimates that around 10,000 Ukrainians will immigrate to Israel in the coming weeks. In a particularly moving incident, Israel sent diplomats to the border to assist a group of 150 Ukrainian Jewish orphans without official documents, traveling with a group of 250 other Jews out of Odessa. Our partners at the Jewish Agency is on the ground, assisting Ukrainian Jews looking to make Aliyah to Israel quickly and safely.
The latest update from our partners at Jewish Agency for Israel:
They continue to operate 18 facilities at 5 different border crossings with thousands of refugees, many of whom will make Aliyah. Some have come on the almost 300 buses coordinated with local organizations while some have come on trains by themselves; most arrive with just the clothes on their backs.
And our partners at Hillel International have mobilized to:
· Provide critical supplies for Hillels in Germany and Poland to provide food, water and medicine for Jewish refugees between the ages of 18-36, as well as mental health support and counseling
· Offer emergency assistance to support Hillel professionals and their families who have been displaced or left without homes
· Convert Hillel spaces in these communities into temporary housing, including bathrooms, showers, blankets, pillows and mattresses for Jewish students and young adults displaced by the conflict
· Enable continued operations and security upgrades for Hillels across Europe so that they can continue to support students while meeting the urgent needs of refugees
Hillel has been transforming the lives of Jewish college students in Ukraine and in Eastern and Central Europe for more than 25 years, empowering a generation of young adults along their Jewish journeys. Hillel serves students in five cities in Ukraine and a total of 15,000 students at 24 Hillels across the region, in countries like France, Poland, Germany, Moldova, and Georgia.
Our partners are seeking to raise more than $20 Million to address initial urgent needs. Please help us help them. Make your contribution today!