ICEJ Helps Rescue Holocaust Survivors from Ukraine

By: David Parsons, ICEJ VP and Senior Spokesman

ICEJ: David Parsons

Highlights in this update:

  • ICEJ working with Israel and the Jewish Agency to bring thousands of endangered Ukrainian Jews to Israel
  • An evacuation team is working through a specific list of Holocaust Survivors 
  • One by one, they are being picked up in vans and ambulances and brought to safer areas
  • Rescue stories of Lilya Vladirovna (78), Samuel (94),  and Mila Chiporniak (93)

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has set off the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two. The intense fighting has already forced nearly three million people to flee the country.

Amid this immense tragedy, the Christian Embassy is working with Israel and the Jewish Agency to bring out thousands of endangered Ukrainian Jews and bring them safely to Israel. So far, we have helped sponsor transport, temporary housing and Aliyah flights for 420 of the approximately 3,000 Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who have arrived in Israel within the past two weeks.

We are especially concerned for Holocaust Survivors in Ukraine, who have already seen enough horrors and wars in their lives. So, the ICEJ is putting a special emphasis on extracting Holocaust Survivors from all across Ukraine and bringing them to safety in Israel. Currently, we are sponsoring an evacuation team of Israeli and local volunteers on the ground in Ukraine making long and dangerous runs across the country to find and evacuate Holocaust Survivors. Many are very elderly and disabled, and have been hunkered down in their homes for weeks, fearing for their lives.

The team is currently working its way through a list of some 75 Holocaust Survivors located all over the embattled country, including in far eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces are constantly shelling major cities. One by one, they are being picked up in vans and ambulances and brought to safer areas. Some family members are also coming out with the survivors and will join them in moving to Israel.

Each rescue mission from Lviv in the west takes around four days of driving round-trip, and must navigate numerous checkpoints, roadside wreckage and rockets raining from above. Once the Holocaust Survivors reach the western border with Poland, JAFI is expediting their Aliyah process and the ICEJ will be sponsoring their transport, temporary housing in transit, any needed medical care, and their Aliyah flights to Israel. We expect some to start arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport by early next week.

300x200_ICEJ_aliyah-ukraine-holocaust_survivor_lilya_from_kyivThis week, the Russian army’s escalating attacks on Kyiv forced Lilya Vladirovna, now 78, to finally leave the home where she was born during World War Two. She had been locked up in her house alone for over two weeks as the capital city was slowly besieged. Lilya was almost out of food and, due to her difficulty in walking, she has had trouble reaching a safer place in her apartment building every time the sirens wail – which is many times a day.

“From the moment the fighting started, I did not leave the house because that is what we were ordered to do,” Lilya told the Israeli news site Ynet. “Every time I heard the alarms, I ran to the stairwell and heard the sound of explosions.”

Her son was looking for a way to get her out to safety and learned of the ICEJ-sponsored team rescuing Holocaust Survivors from around the country. They picked her up this week and took her on the two-day journey to Lviv, where she was grateful to finally be safe and headed for Israel.

“I was born in Kyiv when the city was constantly bombed,” she added. “My father was killed in battles towards the end of World War Two in fighting alongside the Soviet Union. In my life I never thought the Russian people would attack Ukraine. Now I feel like history repeats itself and even worse.”

Meanwhile, the team managed to extricate Holocaust Survivors Samuel (94) and Mila Chiporniak (93) this week from Mariupol, where an estimated 2,400 civiliansICEJ_200x300_aliyah-ukraine_survivors-samuel_and_mila have died in the incessant Russian bombardment of the city. A maternity hospital and now a theatre are among the sites destroyed in the battered coastal town all the way over on the Sea of Azov. Humanitarian convoys trying to bring civilians out of the surrounded city also have come under repeated attack.

As she reached safety in Lviv, Mila was choking back tears when she spoke to an Israeli reporter with Maariv about her ordeal.

“I have no words to express my gratitude. I do not know how these angels from heaven suddenly came to us, I do not know them at all. It is obvious how they risked themselves under heavy fire,” she said. “I thank God for sending me these rescuers.”

Mila and Samuel have now been taken by ambulance across the Polish border on their way to Warsaw, where they will be quickly processed by JAFI and sent on to Israel. Several younger family members will join them, but the fighting-age men must stay to help defend the country.

Other rescued Holocaust Survivors are expressing their deep gratitude for this special evacuation effort, as are Israeli officials.

“I want to thank all our friends at the Christian Embassy for your support, your prayers and donations, which are helping us bring more Jews from Ukraine to Israel,” said Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s representative at the United Nations, in a special video message to the ICEJ (see above video).

Please join us in rescuing more Holocaust Survivors and other Ukrainian Jews from the clutches of this brutal conflict. These are survivors who lived through some of the most shocking Nazi atrocities of World War Two, such as the Babyn Yar massacre of over 33,000 Jews in Kyiv in 1941. They are now facing the horrors of war again, and urgently need our help to reach the safety of Israel.