ICEJ provides urgent dental care for Ukrainian Jewish immigrantsPublished on: 26.7.2022
By: Chris Chambers
Thousands of Jews have recently escaped the war in Ukraine and immigrated to Israel, many fleeing without proper documents or possessions. Among the many ways the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is helping them get settled in Israel is by sponsoring treatments for those in urgent need of dental care. An ICEJ team recently met two of these new immigrants and heard their incredible stories.
Saving Katia’s leg and smile
Katia, aged 31, arrived in Israel from Ukraine in late March and finally had her immigrant status approved in June. Prior to the war, she was a sales manager in a sausage factory and enjoyed her job very much. She also volunteered her spare time to help other less fortunate families.
When Russian troops first invaded, her home was destroyed and she was shot through her left leg. Bleeding profusely and in constant pain from shrapnel wounds to her mouth and body, Katia was stretched out across the folded back seat and trunk of a small car and transported to Moldova. This journey normally takes a couple hours, but it took more than eight hours due to all the shelling and gunfire. Finally safe in a Moldovan hospital, she was given the harsh news that, due to their lack of medical expertise, her leg would need to be amputated.
With the support of Jewish and Christian workers who helped arrange a rescue flight to Israel, she decided to wait on the surgery. Arriving at Ben Gurion Airport, she was rushed directly to an Israeli hospital where over the next few weeks her wounds were successfully treated. Though Katia shared these trials with quiet composure, she was delighted to learn they had the know-how to save her leg.
“This is a miracle!” said Katia.
Since arriving in Israel, Katia has been on her own and remains somewhat in shock. Sadly, her mother and sister have abandoned her due, she thinks, to her post traumatic mental state. Fortunately, a Christian nurse named Anna befriended her and helped carry her through the nightmares and deep depression that marked her recovery process.
Today, she is calm and remains optimistic about her future. Soon she will leave the hotel where she has been housed since leaving the hospital, to begin a month-long physio and rehab program.
Having addressed her life-threatening and mobility concerns, along with help for her psychiatric state, Katia faced yet another pressing need – this time for dental treatment. The bomb blasts had left her with several root canal problems, a major mouth infection and no front teeth. Still, she felt comfortable to speak with us and even smile, knowing the ICEJ helped fund her dental treatments. Eventually, she is expecting a brace and bridge over her new front teeth.
Looking into the near future, she will need to study Hebrew and learn to walk again. However, for now she is giving herself more time to heal. When she can stand and hopefully regain her memory better, she looks forward to the Hebrew classes. In addition, she wants to volunteer to help others, knowing how others helped her.
Katia knew from her teen years she was Jewish and could make Aliyah, but never gave it serious thought. Now, she believes God has a reason for bringing her to Israel. “I have been given so much help and support from many Christian people and want to say a very big thank you to them all, including the ICEJ for this dental care,” she said.
Mom also ends up in dental chair
Oksana is a young mother with two boys, aged 15 and 6, who fled their home in Kyiv when Russia invaded Ukraine last winter. Like so many other separated families, she quit her job as an auditor, left behind her husband Nikolai, and arrived in Israel in late March with the boys, one small suitcase and little money. Before fleeing Ukraine, she had tried life in a country village outside Kyiv but her youngest son Liev, who suffers with asthma, struggled with the need to remain underground once the bombing of their village began. So, she felt obliged to leave for their safety.
Oksana became aware of her Aliyah options through a journalist and contacted a Jewish congregation who helped her and the children escape to Moldova and then on to Romania. There, she applied for Aliyah and soon found herself on board an aircraft to Israel. Her paperwork is still awaiting approval from the Ministry of Interior, and she hopes to soon have a more normal family life when her husband can join them.
Since arriving in Israel, Oksana appreciates the better standards of living and education. “Here”, she said, “people care, and I love the nature, it’s beautiful. I love Israel with all of my heart, and I love my little town. I never want to leave Israel.”
When asked her dream, she quickly responded: “For my youngest son to be healed, for my older son to come away from his attraction to being online, and that I will be able to live and retire here, with my husband.”
Oksana discovered her own need for urgent dental treatment while busy looking for a dentist for her son, Liev. She had her teeth checked by x-ray, which revealed significant damage across four teeth. Still struggling to make ends meet, she sees our assistance with her dental treatment as a real gift.
“Thank you so very much for your help,” she said tearfully. “This is such a beautiful day.”
Our chance to help!
After meeting these two women, Nicole Yoder, ICEJ’s Vice President for Aid & Aliyah, commented: “Hearing these stories made us all realize afresh how essential our work is to provide practical aid at this time for these immigrants displaced by war. It was humbling and amazing to hear of their courage in the midst of so many challenges and traumas. What an honor to be able to bless and help them along the way.”
The ICEJ is committed to helping Jewish immigrants make their way home to Israel and to supporting them as they begin their lives anew in Israel. Thank you so much for your generosity, which is making such a major difference for new arrivals like Katia and Oksana and their families! Please continue to support our Aliyah and Integration efforts.