Haifa Home Happenings

By: Yudit Setz, ICEJ Deputy Aid Director

The ICEJ’s Home for Holocaust Survivors in Haifa remains an interesting place to live and work, as we recently saw when welcoming our newest resident, Galina Voloshin.

Galina was born in 1936 in Ushomir, a small Jewish village near Kyiv. When the war broke out in Ukraine in June 1941, Galina’s father was mobilized. The family received only one letter from him, in which he urged Galina’s mother to take care of herself and their children.

Galina’s mother was a secretary of the local Communist party and knew all the communists in the area, so the family had to be evacuated. Galina, her sister, and their grandmother had to sit in an open cart, waiting for Galina’s mother to return, while harrowing sounds of sirens bellowed and dogs howled, leaving Galina with a lifelong fear of dogs.

The family escaped to the Stalingrad region, in the heat of the summer, where they lived for several months, during which time Galina’s grandmother and little sister died.

Everyone believed the Germans would not reach Stalingrad, but in 1942, the enemy laid siege to the city. Galina and her mother escaped again, this time by train. During the journey, several air raids sounded, forcing the train to stop and everyone to hide in the woods. They finally arrived in Ural at the end of August, but the weather had turned bitterly cold. Galina’s mother secured work at a school and planted a vegetable garden with her pupils that saved their lives. Galina would sit in bed wrapped in a blanket trying to keep warm until her mother returned from work.

After the war, the two returned to Ukraine, where Galina started school. She eventually studied at university to become an engineer and worked in this field until retirement.

In 1997, at the age of 61, Galina and her 80-year-old mother made Aliyah to Israel, where Galina continued to care for her aging mother and volunteered to help other Soviet Jewish immigrants. She has received many certificates of recognition for her contributions.

Galina moved into the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors in June and is quite happy to live here. “When I came to the dining room for the first time, I was warmly welcomed and greeted by residents and staff alike. Everyone was so friendly, and I immediately felt at home,” she shared.

An Incredible Reunion with a Tearful Closure

An unexpected visit to the Haifa Home recently brought a long-awaited closure to 95-year-old resident Sarah Zamir. Born as Ilse Böhm, Sarah grew up in a religious Jewish family near Breslau, in Silesia. In 1939 the family fled the Nazi regime for Belgium hoping for a safer life; however, deportations of Belgium’s Jews soon began. Sarah’s family was sent to concentration camps, never to return. But a kind Catholic couple from Antwerp took in 14-year-old Sarah. “They were not just good people,” Sarah recalled. “They were like angels.”

Sarah’s tearful reunion came about due to the work of Charlie Knight, a British historian of German Jewish refugees from the 1930s and 40s. Through his research, Charlie found letters dated from 1939 to 1940 hidden in an archive, letters sent back and forth between Sarah’s father, Ernst Böhm, and his cousin. Among them, Charlie found a postcard written by Ernst’s daughter, Ilse, whose fate was not initially clear. Further research revealed that she had survived, immigrated to Israel, and was now named Sarah Zamir.

After seeing Sarah featured in an ICEJ Germany video posted on social media, Charlie contacted the Christian Embassy, and soon enough, the two met at the Home in Haifa, where Sarah told Charlie in detail about her rescuers. The information Sarah provided prompted Charlie to continue his research that eventually led to identifying the Catholic couple who saved Sarah’s life and locating their family.

The couple’s great-grandson, Vince, had heard about Ilse from his grandfather, who was her age and lived alongside her in his parents’ home. As he grew older, the grandfather expressed hope that Ilse had lived a long, healthy life. When he learned about Sarah, Vince decided to come to Israel to meet her!

Sarah could hardly believe it was happening! Her own granddaughter was there for the reunion and said: “It was touching beyond words and an honor to meet the family that saved my grandma.” Vince agreed: “We were overcome by emotion—the first thing we did when we met was just cry. But then it became natural, and we talked as if we had known each other forever.”

You can make a difference in the life of a Holocaust Survivor by supporting our Haifa Home.