The ICEJ’s Home for Holocaust Survivors in Haifa has welcomed several new residents who fled the war in Ukraine. Their stories are heart-breaking.
When war erupted in Ukraine last winter, Maya and Anatoly had no plans to leave their home of many decades. But as the battle grew closer and trenches were dug around their property, they knew it was time to go. That evening, an organisation called to urge them to pack and be ready to leave by morning. After passing many roadblocks to reach Kharkiv, they were put on a bus to Moldova, and from there flew to Israel. They already had a son living in Haifa and joined his family until they could move to the Haifa Home becoming the first residents in the new 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.”
Another new resident is Natalia, whose family fled Odessa when the Germans invaded Ukraine in World War II. She still remembers the constant fear of that time. When the family returned to Odessa, her father became a ship captain – a rare position for a Jew in Soviet days. Natalia later married, but today she is a widow. When Russia first attacked Ukraine, the Odessa port was seen as a prime target, but Natalia never imagined leaving. “I told myself I would stay no matter what”, she said. Yet, the constant fear in war returned, and with few nearby bomb shelters for civilians, she decided to escape to Israel. With tears flowing, Natalia told us she felt like her father helped her make it to Israel, because he had such a difficult life but always found ways to reassure the family. She is so grateful for the care she receives at the Haifa Home, but adds it is not easy starting over at her age. “All my friends, my whole life is in Ukraine”, Natalia confides.
While our residents need physical and emotional care, they also need comfortable beds and chairs so the ICEJ volunteer team took the new residents to the local IKEA to find some new furniture. They had never seen such a huge store and felt like children in a toy shop. They especially enjoyed scooting around the showrooms on motorised carts. Simcha, our physiotherapist, helped Arnold choose the right mattress for him and his disabled wife Allah, who stays mostly in bed.
Anja, who recently joined the Haifa Home staff, is really fit for her job at this time. She made Aliyah from Ukraine herself in 1999, speaks the language fluently, and knows the challenges of moving to Israel.
We also recently added Ella to our Christian volunteer team. Because her parents came from different Soviet republics, she speaks both Russian and Romanian, and then learned Hebrew while studying in Israel over recent years. Seeking the Lord for her next step, she applied to be an assistant nurse on our Haifa team, and it turns out she is well suited for the job. Ella will be responsible for all our new Russian-speaking residents.