Update Ukraine: “I felt like a refugee myself”
– Koen Carlier
In the past nights I experienced something new. In the previous week I thought: I have probably experienced everything by now. But this turned out not to be the case. Last night I slept for one hour. How come? You will read that in this update, written at the Romanian border, where we are having breakfast with 250 Jewish refugees in a refugee camp. Never thought I would experience this.
In our previous update, you read more about the 110 Jewish refugees, part of them came through our shelter in western Ukraine. The other part came from from Bela Tserkov (near Kiev). Our idea was that all the refugees would leave from one location in western Ukraine, and that from there we would go to the border together. But the group from Bela Tserkov said, “No, we will come to the border ourselves, and then we will see.” “Then we’ll see”, made things difficult…. We had to wait five hours at the border for the group from Bela Tserkov. But in the end our 110 Jewish refugees left, directly to Bucharest where the Jewish Agency had arranged a hotel for them.
How come the waiting times are so long?
The influx of refugees from Ukraine is unprecedented. No one was prepared for these amounts of people. Waiting times at the borders are sometimes up to seven to eight hours. In addition, traveling in Ukraine is extremely unpredictable and dangerous. A trip that would normally take 3 hours can easily take more than 24 hours under these conditions. Due to roadblocks, bombed bridges and roads, air raid sirens and shelling. In addition, Ukraine has a strict curfew, so traveling at night is not an option. These long waiting times at the borders are not only a problem in Ukraine, but due to the enormous influx of refugees, the borders to neighboring countries are also almost completely blocked.
However, something else happened. On Monday we received a phone call asking if we could arrange transportation to Romania for another group of 250 Jewish refugees who were on their way from Dnepropetrovsk (eastern Ukraine) to the border with Moldova. The group included refugees from Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhe and Mariupol. Then the long wait began for me and my good friend Nick. After a full day of waiting for the first group, we had to wait another twelve hours at the border for this group, until 5 a.m. From 1 to 2 a.m I had fallen asleep for a while. That’s the only sleep I had that night.
Do not leave me behind!
Eventually our entire group was present at 5 a.m. Nick: “I have never seen such fear in people’s eyes. Fear that we would leave them behind”. The buses were overcrowded, but it we succeeded. This group is now traveling to various places in Moldova and Romania. We have no option but to split up the group, as there are hardly any places to sleep. Our group includes a number of Holocaust survivors, as well as children. They have been on the road for over 36 hours, everyone is exhausted.
“I have never seen such fear in people’s eyes. Fear that we would leave them behind”
After a few hours we arrive in Romania where we were received in a refugee camp and were allowed to have breakfast. Everyone is happy that there is something to eat. We will then continue our journey to a village not far from this refugee camp. From there, a Christian bus company will take our Jewish refugees to Bucharest, or another location where they can spend the night.
Support in the midst of chaos
These are troubled times. The chaos is tremendous. Fortunately, we are getting a lot of help from our friends at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who are also at the border helping Israeli citizens. They are also prepared to help us with the huge logistical challenges we face.
On the 8th of March it was International Women’s Day: a big holiday in the former Soviet Union. To our surprise, the Romanian customs officers entered the buses to hand out flowers to all the ladies on the buses. That was very special. Most refugees are women, because the men between the ages of 18 and 60 are required to stay in Ukraine.
My friend Nick who is helping out as a volunteer in Moldova just handed me a sandwich. I almost feel like a refugee myself.
“This week we will have helped more than a thousand Jewish refugees altogether”
We are getting ready to receive another group of 120 refugees at the border. This week we will have helped more than a thousand Jewish refugees altogether – from Ukraine, through Moldova and Romania, and then hopefully soon to the Promised Land. God is bringing His people home, as described: “I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.” Jeremiah 32:41
We are exhausted, but we feel privileged to be able to serve the Jewish people in these days. We continue to move forward one step at a time. Every step is a miracle, we live from day to day.
Jewish refugees are brought from Ukraine to Moldova. Because the airspace in Moldova is closed, buses are bringing the people to Romania. From there, they are brought to Israel. The expense of such a bus trip is about AU$6000. This is about AU$150 per person.
Would you like to assist one or more Jewish refugees with their evacuation and emigration to Israel? Or do you want to sponsor a whole bus? Please support our emergency campaign. Your support is of vital importance. Thank you in advance!
War in Ukraine has Devastating Effect on Jewish Communities
A week ago Ukraine looked quite different. The threat from Russia was present, but nobody foresaw that the situation would escalate so dramatically. The nightmare became reality, hundreds of thousands of inhabitants are on the run. In Ukraine conflicts and unrest often go together with a dramatic increase of antisemitism. Therefore we urge Christians to stand beside the Jewish community in Ukraine.
Jewish Ilja says goodbye to Anna. He goes into battle to defend Ukraine, she flees across the border | Photo: Christians for Israel
Christians for Israel’s coordinator in Ukraine Koen Carlier: “You donated generously to our emergency campaign for Ukraine. We are extremely grateful to you for that. A lot of help is needed. This week we were able to make € 500,000 (AUS $750,000) available to the Jewish Agency. They take care of the evacuation of Jewish refugees from Ukraine via neighbouring countries to Israel. There are already ten thousand applications piled up from families who want to flee to Israel. A lot of money is needed to finance this. Additionally our Christians for Israel’s team in Ukraine provides food and shelter to the Jewish refugees, and helps them to evacuate to the border. Refugees are evacuated on a daily basis. The circumstances are extremely difficult, but we will continue.”
Christians for Israel provides emergency aid to Jewish men, women and children in Ukraine: food, shelter and evacuation. This help is now needed more than ever
Making a difference
These Jewish refugees were evacuated from our shelter in Ukraine to the border of one of the neighbouring countries. Your support has changed their lives. Watch the touching video.
The Jewish communities in cities like Kyiv, Donetsk and Kharkiv are having a hard time because of the war. The air-raid alert continuously sounds, town centres are being bombed, super markets are closed and the access roads are largely closed. But also in other parts of Ukraine the situation is extremely unstable. Koen Carlier: “We are grateful that our team in Ukraine made as many preparations as possible in the past weeks, by delivering food supplies and by preparing shelters. Therefore we can really make a difference now with our emergency help.”
On the run again
Meet this family: Rita, her husband Valentin and their three daughters, Lisa (5), Eva (2,5) and Yana (1,5). In 2015 Rita fled from the war zone in Donetsk to the western part of Ukraine. It was a life-threatening situation they could barely escape. In Odessa she met Valentin, not much later they married. The family thought about emigrating to Israel, but had not decided yet. The present war has changed everything. Rita: “I never expected that I would have to flee again.” Now the family is leaving thanks to the help of Christians for Israel to the nearby border. From there they will be evacuated to Israel soon. Daughter Lisa (5) has a condition that prevents her from speaking. It was not until a year ago she can whisper a word every now and then. Our C4I field worker Nataliya: “It was so special when I met Lisa for the first time a few days ago, she ran towards me and called me “Babushka” (grandmother). I am so grateful that we were able to help this family.”
Rita, Valentin and their daughters Lisa, Eva and Yana | Photo: Christians for Israel
Our assistance is vital
For their daily needs many Jewish elderly depend on our food parcels. Our coordinator Koen Carlier works night and day with his dedicated team to help these people in all possible ways: emergency shelter for Jewish refugees, providing food to those people whose pantry is empty and evacuating people to Israel. The conditions in which they work are hard and not always safe. That is why your support and prayers are very important. The assistance must not stop: we must carry on.
Get involved with your congregation
Could you please ask your church to pray on Sunday for the emergency situation in Ukraine, and to collect money for the Jewish communities in Ukraine? You can share the video with them.
Ukrainian Jews, scarred by a bloody history, find themselves refugees once again
By Cnaan Liphshitz | Times of Israel.
Across Ukraine, Jews are engaging in a historically Jewish experience: becoming refugees.
And hundreds of them from Odessa have headed to an unlikely destination, the impoverished nation of Moldova whose capital, Chisinau, was the site of a major pogrom that became a symbol of Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century.
Russia’s War on Ukraine: UN Watch Speaks Out
As Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces invade Ukraine in the largest military campaign on the European continent since 1945, UN Watch, an organization critical of the UN, has been at the forefront on social media, going viral on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Hillel Neuer, the director of UN Watch who has successfully denounced the hypocrisy of the United Nations numerous times in the past, shared the following on Twitter.
Jewish communities in Ukraine are under enormous pressure as Russian attacks and ground troops are closing in on Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, as well as key cities by the northern and southern borders.
Throughout the past year, Christians for Israel (C4I) has expanded relations and significantly stepped up support for Jewish communities in the port cities along the Back Sea coast, to include Odessa, Nikolayev, Kherson and Mariupol. Over the past weeks, our team used some last-minute opportunities to turn donations into food parcels and medical support there, especially for needy elderly including many holocaust survivors. While hundreds of thousands are fleeing the less affected areas, residents of closed-in cities and the elderly are stuck in their apartments or bomb shelters.
“The situation in Kherson is very tense,” said C4I staff member Alina, who is maintaining phone contact with the Jewish communities. “The Russian forces are located at the southern borders and, in smaller numbers, have advanced into the cities. No one can enter or leave Kherson at the moment. Public transportation does not work; all municipal busses have been set aside for the needs of the Ukrainian army or for emergency assistance, like delivering drinking water to the housing blocks.”
Residents have been told to stay at home, close to the bomb shelters, Alina said. Like most cities now, Kherson seems to be dead, hardly anyone is to be seen on the streets. Still, most of the Jewish community’s social workers are trying to visit the elderly by foot and provide for them. The sirens are going off constantly. Supermarkets are empty – people have to survive on their supplies.
Thanks to your help, now that they can’t go anywhere, they all have some food on which to survive. We can’t thank you enough!
“Your recent donation of both funds and hundreds of food parcels was so timely,” said Alexander from Kherson’s Jewish community. “Pensions are so low already; our elderly didn’t have extra money to stock up supplies. But thanks to your help, now that they can’t go anywhere, they all have some food on which to survive. We can’t thank you enough!”
More funds will be needed as C4I’s Ukraine team starts providing for an increasing stream of refugees on their way to safety in the neighboring countries and eventually Israel.
‘I know victory awaits me because the Lord is fighting for me.’
“I’m on my way taking three Jewish refugee families to a shelter,” said C4I staff member Nataliya. “A pregnant mom, several children, two grandmas. Of course no one could sleep last night – the fourth sleepless night in a row. But in the morning hours, a song came to me: ‘I know victory awaits me because the Lord is fighting for me.’ This song encouraged me so much. Honestly, I think our work is just beginning. 2014/15 was nothing compared with this. We definitely need the reality of God’s promise that those who trust Him will be like eagles not running tired – so that we can fulfill what we have been called to do, and what we have been praying for all those years.”
NOTE: Donations given towards the Ukraine Emergency Aid Campaign will be collected as a pooled emergency fund. Amount options are suggestions only and reflect the current costs for particular aid relief – these amounts however are fluctuating and therefore the suggested donation amounts may alter as the situation in Ukraine continues to change.
Any amount is welcome! Your gift will be used where it is needed most.
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Description: Please use ‘Ukraine Appeal’ to ensure funds are allocated correctly. Thank you.