• Holocaust survivor Rita Shveybysh and Lothar Hartmann
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Ukraine: The last survivors and the “children of the oppressors”

Anemone Rüger - 5 July 2018

”After the holocaust, in one family a boy remained alive, in the other family a girl. Those were my grandparents.“ This is how Orly Wolstein of the Israeli JAFI integration program First Home in the Homeland begins her story as she addresses audiences during a speaking tour with Christians for Israel in South Germany.

Orly was born in the Ukrainian town of Herson, saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, studied in Kiev, Konstanz and Frankfurt and eventually decided to go to Israel with her daughter. “I took only one backpack in case I had to run after my daughter. When we were ready, a white VW van pulled up and took us to the airport. At the time, I knew nothing about Christians for Israel.”

Mileage: 500,000 kilometers
The rest of the story on the bus is provided by Christians for Israel staff member Nataliya Kryzhanovskaya from Kiev. “One day, our pastor came up to me and said, “Nataliya, here is the key for a VW van for your ministry with the Jewish people. The Lord says He needs this donkey.” – Years before, the Lord had told me and my husband that He wants to use us in bringing His people home. By now, the “donkey” has travelled half a million kilometers, “Ukrainian kilometers!” Natalya adds, referring to the run-down state of the roads. Thousands of Jewish people have sat on its seats, have used the free ride to request their documents at the Israeli Embassy and have eventually ended 2,000 years of Diaspora to go home to Israel.

The grandchildren of the war
“In Kiev I ran for my life,” was all my own (Anemone Rüger’s) grandfather would be able to express whenever the city was mentioned before the memories would overwhelm him – memories of the withdrawal battles in November 1943 when he was fleeing from the Red Army with his 208th German Infantry Division. What he experienced during the bitter years on the Eastern Front was something he would keep to himself.

Perhaps he cried also because he realised that now, in the generation of his grandchildren, a window of grace has opened up for Germans to go to Ukraine, kneel down at the mass graves, ask survivors for forgiveness, have a chai with them, bring food parcels and help them on their way to Israel.

“The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you.” (Isaiah 60: 14) [1]

17,000 survivors are waiting for us
250,000 Jewish people in Ukraine are still wondering what to do. More than 17,000 survivors are still waiting for us, the descendants of their German oppressors, to bring healing in a way only we can. Or they are waiting for us to come back because we have become part of the family… because they want to celebrate Hanukkah with us, and Pesach, and the 9th of May, the day of victory over the Nazi regime.

Orly Wolstein speaks in various churches during a tour in Germany in April 2018


Nataliya Kryzhanovskaya visits a holocaust survivor in a remote village and brings a food parcel with a message from Christians for Israel


Anniversary of the German attack on the Soviet Union: Lothar Hartmann, participant in a Christians for Israel working trip, hugs Rita Shveybysh, who at age five was marched to the Pechora death camp in winter of 1941 and was the only survivor from her family.


Rabbi Jonathan Markovich addresses a group of Jewish veterans in Kiev before Christians for Israel distributes food parcels.


[1] Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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