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  • The Italian group in Bratslav, Ukraine
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Italians visit Ukraine

Koen Carlier - 26 August 2019

From the 10th till the 19th of August twelve Italians came to Ukraine for a working trip. Most of the participants, including six young adults, were in Ukraine for the first time.

The trip was organized at the request of Edda Fogarollo, who has been responsible for Christians for Israel in Italy since 2011. Edda is often asked to speak about the Holocaust in Italy. She also gives lectures at the university.

The program for this week included a visit to a Jewish mass grave, a visit to the Jewish school in Bela Tserkva, the packing and handing out of 1,000 food parcels and listening to the stories of Holocaust survivors in different stettls (villages where many Jews used to live). In small groups we visited some elderly in their homes, we met a rabbi who fled from Donetsk because of the war and finally we had a three-day visit to Odessa; a large port city on the Black Sea with a rich Jewish history.

Odessa
The Italian group visited the Holocaust Museum in Odessa. The museum has a scale model of nine large warehouses, where more than 23.000 Jews from Odessa were burned alive. One Jewish man who survived this tragedy as a small child recently passed away. Nowadays there are apartment buildings on this large area, located on the outskirts of Odessa. We visited this horrible place, where a memorial reminds visitors of the terrible events that took place here.

Aliyah
The next visit was to Tikva (meaning “hope”), an organization in Odessa that works together with Christians for Israel. This organization takes care of Jewish orphans and children who come from broken families. They offer children a chance for good education. Many of these children go to Israel with an Aliyah study program later on!

At one of the Jewish schools, the group unloaded 500 food parcels and distributed them to a number of Jewish families, who came to collect their food parcel. The group also visited the local Jewish Agency which was very informative. The head of the Jewish Agency, Shmuel Shpak, said that there are still around 30,000 Jews in Odessa. There are regular direct flights from Odessa to Tel Aviv with ‘Olim’ (immigrants to Israel).

To the surprise of the Italians we then met with a number of Jewish families, who will leave for Israel at the end of August. They told us why they decided to leave Ukraine and how much time they had spent arranging all the documents. A number of young families will integrate into Israel through the “First Home in the Homeland” program, where they will receive an intensive Hebrew course during the first five months.

Shabbat meal
On Friday evening we took part in a synagogue service in the large synagogue, in “The Jewish street” where Vladimir Jabotinsky once lived. He was a well-known Zionist leader and numerous streets in Israel are named after him.

After the service there was a shabbat meal with 200 attendees. At our table we met a Jewish woman, Loeba, who made Aliyah from Odessa 30 years ago with her one-year-old daughter. She was in Odessa for a short visit to her hometown and she was rather curious about who we were and why we were in Odessa.

Loeba also told us something about her history. Her father survived the Pechora concentration camp, 40 kilometers from Tulchin. Loeba raised four children in Israel. The reason for Loeba to make Aliyah about 30 years ago, was that they wanted to live as a Jewish family in a free country. This was practically impossible in Ukraine at that time, because of anti-Semitism and restrictions imposed on Jews. Loeba raised four children in Israel.

“Holland village”
We told Loeba our story and the history of Christians for Israel, which was founded in the Netherlands, almost 40 years ago. Suddenly she interrupted us and said: “When I made Aliyah and arrived with thousands of other Olim from the Northern country [former Soviet Union] to Israel, we lived in caravans for a few years, due to the lack of houses. The area was called “Hollanddorp” (Holland Village). Does this have anything to do with you? “

We explain that this was indeed a project of Christians for Israel in the early nineties. “Hollanddorp” was built in the hills near Bethlehem to help the many newcomers with shelter and integration. Israel was almost unable to cope with the large number of immigrants.

We said goodbye, but Loeba hopes to see us again. Who knows, in Israel?

The work continues
We also said goodbye to the Italians, after a tiring but educational working trip! 
There is not much time to rest, because on Monday we receive a group from the Netherlands together with the Chief Rabbi The Netherlands, Binyomin Jacobs and his wife and a group from Germany. They will join the unveiling of the children’s memorial in Bela Tserkva, and will pack a total of 2000 food parcels. 

Behind the scenes, our drivers tirelessly continue to help Jewish families on their way to the promised land!

 

View the photos of the working visit below! Click on the right side of the photo to see the next photo.

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