• Kibbutz Beeri - where Valentin, Maya and Mark found a first home. | Photo: C4I
SOS Ukraine

Hope and a Future in Israel

Marie-Louise Weissenböck - 11 August 2022

During a visit to Israel at the beginning of July, I had the opportunity to meet and interview two families from Ukraine who, with the help of C4I, had made Aliyah two months earlier. Although they had to leave behind some family members and nearly all their possessions, living in Israel has given them new hope for a better future and a happy life. Here are their stories:

Valentin (24), Maya (23) and Mark (3) (pictured below) have been given a first home in Israel through the First Home in the Homeland programme, run by the Jewish Agency. They live in Kibbutz Beeri (pictured above), a beautifully maintained Kibbutz located in the south of Israel. The happiness beams from their faces as they show us their little house – equipped with all they need for living. “The neighbours gave us some electrical appliances such as a TV, a vacuum cleaner and other things. Everybody in Israel has been so good to us… When people hear that we come from Ukraine, everybody wants to help”, exclaims Valentin.

Valentin, Maya and Mark in their new home in kibbutz Beeri. | Photo: Marie-Louise Weissenböck

Escaping from Ukraine was quite traumatic. Until the war started, they lived in Shostka, a city in the north, about 25 km from the Russian border. Realising that the war would last longer than expected, they decided to flee to Kiev and were helped by a friend, a bus driver. The journey took them eight hours. In Kiev Valentin started looking for ways to reach a border and the possibility of getting to Israel. On a Jewish Agency website, he found information about C4I and contacted them. One of the drivers picked the small family up, which then spent one night in the little hotel rented by C4I. With a big C4I bus full of Jewish refugees, Victor, Maya, Mark, and their cat left for the Moldavian border the next morning. Maya and little Mark crossed the border on foot with Alina, one of C4I- Ukraine’s fieldworkers, while Valentin stayed behind with all the luggage for an interrogation by the border police.

Although in a recruitable age group, Valentin had been issued a ‘White Ticket’ by the medical office in Shostka, exempting him from war service as he suffers from astigmatism. Maya and Mark waited together with Alina, who did all to calm them for 90 minutes until Valentin finally was allowed to join them on the bus to Kishinev, the capital of Moldova. There they waited for a week. The meeting with the consul, which took place on 24 April, will always remain a special memory for them. After looking carefully through their papers, he decided to phone Valentin’s grandmother in Kiev to ask some questions, which she answered in her best Yiddish. This opened the doors for them, and the young parents, their son and his cat arrived safely in Israel on 3 May.

They had to stay in a hotel in Arad for the first five days and then were moved to Kibbutz Beeri, where their new life began.


Vitalii and family on their way to Israel, 12 May 2022. | Photo: V. Tabak

The Tabak Family from Odessa

Vitalii, his wife Victoria, daughter Polina (11) and son David (5) (pictured above) came to Israel on 12 May. Before the war started, Vitalii worked as a salesman, trading toys from China. When the first rockets fell and the war was evident, he immediately fetched his family and drove to his sister’s home near Braclav. They stayed there in expectation that they would be able to return home soon. Vitalii’s father had been in the process of preparing to make Aliyah but died of cancer before he could leave the country. Now Vitalii decided to act quickly. He contacted C4I, was taken to the Moldovan border with his family in a bus driven by Koen Carlier, crossed the border with Alina, who had, amongst others, also accompanied the family of Valentin as described above, then immediately boarded the next bus prepared by C4I to Kishinev, saw the consul on the same day and boarded the plane to Israel. Within 24 hours of crossing the border, they were on their way to a new future. The family is still processing how amazingly blessed they were to have had such a smooth passage from their worn-torn country to their new home in Israel.

Vitalii and his son David, who will receive the necessary health care in Israel. | Photo: Marie-Louise Weissenböck

Usually, men between 18 and 65 years of age cannot leave Ukraine easily, as they have the duty to serve in the army. There are a few exceptions, though. If the family has three children or more, or if a child has a serious health condition, as in family Tabak’s case, the father may leave with his family.

Their first apartment was at the seaside in Bat Yam. Now they have moved to Rishon Le Zion, close to Tel Aviv. When asked what their happiest moment was, Vitalii answered, beaming: “To cross the Moldovan border and know that now we are all safe.” He continued: “The people in Israel are very friendly. You have an easy life here if you are open – people welcome spontaneity, and they all want to help. Our children are very happy and have made friends easily. Children of all ages play together – this is unique in this country. We love this place. Thank you to all from Christians for Israel for helping us come here!”


Please support the “First Home in the Homeland” Project. Any amount is welcome! Assisting a family in the “First Home” program costs € 230 euro / US $ 250 a month.

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