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Viktoria Sheikhtman is the Jewish Agency’s representative responsible for Lugansk in Eastern Ukraine. She visited the Israeli office of "First Home in the Homeland" in the Negev.
The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) which is officially responsible for aliyah (returning of Jews to the Land of Israel) has its branches in all corners of the world where Jews are seeking for ways to make aliyah. In Ukraine there are representatives of JAFI in all the big cities, also in Lugansk. But everything changed after the war broke out in May 2014. Many refugees from Lugansk moved to Central Ukraine, among them Viktoria Sheikhtman, coordinator of JAFI Lugansk, who fled with her parents. They survived the Holocaust in Ukraine. Now Viktoria works in Kharkov and she is still helping Jews returning home by making aliyah.
Viktoria Sheikhman visits "First Home"
There are still many Jews in Lugansk and Donetsk, some of them ran away during the bombings but came back after the frequency of the attacks decreased. Many of them discovered that their houses were destroyed and decided to make Aliyah. As was the case of the Murza family that arrived to Israel through the "First Home" program and spent their first year in kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh. Kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh is situated on Route 40 (from Beer Sheva to Mitzpe Ramon).
Family of Olim Murza from Mariupol (East of Ukraine)
Other groups of refugees do not dare to enter "Ukrainian occupied territories" and stay in different places of Ukraine hoping that situation will improve. “Personally don't see any positive developments for this region in the near future”, says Viktoria. So many cruel stories about people that lost everything or were tortured there. My own story in Lugansk ended in July 2014. After the first incident with innocent people killed in May 2014, we realized that lawlessness had come to our city. From Christian Aliyah fieldworkers we got railway tickets to escape from Lugansk, although it seemed a mission impossible. Because all the tickets were sold out long ago.
Humanitarian corridor from Lugansk in July 2014
Finally, on the day when we were supposed to take the train, the station was bombed and totally destroyed.
Some days later we were told that peace volunteers were preparing a humanitarian corridor for the refugees. Already the next morning all of us, people who wanted to leave the war area, assembled and got into cars and started to drive towards Central Ukraine. We put white flags on each car. All the time we were stopped and checked. Of course there was no guarantee that by the end of this journey we would still be alive. Now, when I'm telling you about it, this story sounds like a horror movie. I can still hardly believe that this is happening to me and my home town!
A group of Jewish refugees fled from Lugansk and Donetsk now in Dnepropetrovsk
We stay in a permanent contact with the Christian Aliyah alliance. They do the impossible – bring people out of the war regions, cheer them up, give them practical and spiritual help. Some of the people I supervise stay in the "shelter" of Christians for Israel before making aliyah. Elderly and poor Jews that have no opportunity to leave receive food parcels. In their situation this kind of help is invaluable. Hopefully this cooperation will last and get stronger!
An elderly Jewish couple fled from Eastern Ukraine "Thank you for your help and attention"
Jewish refugee from Lugansk in the shelter of "Christians for Israel" in Kiev, where he stayed for 6 weeks preparing his documents. Made Aliya thanks to C4I.
Orly (Sveta) Volstein - "First Home in the Homeland" Projectmanager Jewish Agency for Israel
There is a long waiting list for the 'First Home in Homeland' program of more than 80 Jewish families from the Former Soviet Union. Also Jews from France have indicated that they want to join this program. Assisting a family in the "First Home" program costs € 230 euro / US $ 250 a month.
Please support this 'First Home' program and help the people settle in the land of Israel! Any amount is welcome!
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