Holocaust survivors from Ukraine finally feel safe

By: Yudit Setz

At the ICEJ’s Haifa Home for Holocaust survivors, we are still receiving new residents who fled the war in Ukraine. We presently have nine Holocaust survivors from Ukraine who recently took up residence in the Haifa Home, with more to come, and their stories are heartbreaking. They now feel safe in Israel, but making Aliyah as elderly people was not easy to say the least!

When we visited Maya and Anatoly in their new apartment recently, they were delighted and eager to share their story.

They lived for the last 37 years a hundred kilometers from Kharkiv. Maya shared that as a small girl she vividly remembers how she had to flee Kharkiv with her mother in 1941, as German forces approached their city. She recalls the fear and the hunger they suffered along the way as they fled to Turkmenistan.

After the war they returned to Kharkiv, but antisemitism was rampant. When she applied for jobs and people found out she was Jewish, they did not accept her.

“It’s very difficult to be a Jew, wherever you are,” she told us in a sad voice. “When bad things happen, Jews are always blamed.”

However, she also tearfully remembered how her grandmother would often say: “There will come a day that there will also be joy in our ‘street’ [community].”

When the war broke out in Ukraine last February, Maya and her husband had no plans to leave the house they had built and lived in for so many years. This changed when the frontlines of the battle came so close, and trenches were dug around their property. They both knew it was time to leave. That same evening, their phone rang and an organization which had been in touch with them earlier in the war told them to immediately pack some belongings and be ready to leave the next morning.

Before they realized what was happening, they were on a bus to a synagogue in Kharkiv. From there they were bused to Moldova, where their papers were processed and then they were flown to Israel. Their son and his family had made Aliyah two and a half years ago and were already living in Haifa, so they joined them. But after a couple of weeks, Maya and Anatoly moved into the Haifa Home and became the first residents in the Christian Embassy’s newest apartment building!

“We feel so loved and welcomed,” Maya repeated several times. “They take wonderful care of us, and we are so happy to be here.”

It is a privilege for the ICEJ to support them emotionally and practically in this challenging time in their lives, especially at their advanced ages. We look forward to continuing to help them get settled into the Haifa Home and become acclimated to Israel in general.

Thank you for considering a generous gift towards the work of the ICEJ’s Haifa Home for Holocaust survivors. You can donate today at:  give.icej.org/survivors