• Galina and her brother Valentin from Mariupol. | Photo: C4I
SOS Ukraine

From devastated Mariupol to the Promised Land

Anemone Rüger - 8 September 2022

From devastated Mariupol to the Promised Land. Christians for Israel staff visit Jewish elderly who recently made Aliyah from war-torn Ukraine.

In early July, Alina (team member of Christians for Israel Ukraine) and Anemone (C4I Coordinator – Holocaust Survivors & Elderly Sponsorship Programme Ukraine) visited Jewish refugees from Ukraine who we helped return home to Israel – with your support. We will share some of the beautiful encounters with you.

“There is a God, and He does miracles”

“There really is a God,” Svetlana exclaims when we visit her in her still sparsely furnished flat in Ramat Gan and ask how she escaped from Mariupol (Ukraine) with her husband, Boris. “There is a God, and He does miracles.”

In mid-February, at the urging of her son, who lives in Kharkov, the two decided to join him for a few days for some medical examinations that had been due for some time. “And then suddenly it was war. My Boris is so ill; he couldn’t have run. And so we escaped the whole horror of Mariupol.”

Via Dnepropetrovsk, the couple reached Romania, and from there, they flew on to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. “We were on the road for five days,” Svetlana reports. Her daughter came to Israel with the youth Aliyah 30 years ago and now takes care of everything.

At the thought of Mariupol, Svetlana quickly wipes away the tears that are welling up. “We had just received a food parcel from you. We told our neighbours where to find it. It kept half our apartment block alive when people had to hold out in the basement for weeks!”

Svetlana and Boris together with Anemone in Israel. | Photo: C4I


“For the rest of our lives we will be grateful for what you did”

Galina speaks without even pausing about the events of her escape from Mariupol (Ukraine), so troubled are her memories. She fled with her brother Valentin, who C4I has supported for years – and with her two grandchildren. Alina knows their story. She brought the family safely across the border just a few weeks ago.
The grandchildren, who were actually already living in Israel, were visiting their grandma in Mariupol when the war started. “I went to a basement, my brother was somewhere on the other side of the city, and my grandchildren were somewhere else at that moment in a third basement. It was terrible; we couldn’t get out. We didn’t have a connection for a long time. In the basement, there was no water, no light, and no toilet.”

At a certain point, Galina dared to run outside; she managed to load her phone for a few minutes and received instructions from Valentin on where to go. “Then air raids started again. But I didn’t care about anything anymore. Thirty thousand perished in our city – it also doesn’t matter what happens to me, I thought. Only after I arrived at my brother’s I could tell him that my grandchildren were stuck in another basement.”

“One of the most difficult things was that there was no fuel,” Valentin comments when he returns from the kitchen. All my friends chipped in; everyone donated a little for fuel. That’s how we got 20 litres – as much as was needed to get to town again.”

With great difficulty, he managed to find someone who would go with him to the centre of the city once more – hoping for a lucky break to find Galina’s grandchildren. “The house was already destroyed. But the children were still holding out in the basement. We pulled them out in a flash,” Valentin recalls. “After driving a few meters, we came under fire. We had to jump out of the car and lie flat on the ground. They shot at the car, but we made it through unscathed. Miraculously, the car still worked when we jumped in during a pause in the fighting.”

Via Zaporozhe, the family was eventually taken to C4I’s emergency shelter in western Ukraine with other refugees. On the C4I bus to the border, they were accompanied by Alina.

“It was an incredible drama,” Alina recalls. “At the border, they wouldn’t let grandma out with the grandchildren because she didn’t have the children’s papers. These were with the mother. Standing there, in borrowed clothes which were much too big, like from the Leningrad blockade, the children couldn’t go any further! Even some border guards were in tears at the sight of them.”

Begging did not help – Valentin had to travel on without his sister – first to Chisinau. Galina had to return to the C4I shelter with her grandchildren. Eventually, they were brought to the Polish border, where their mother picked them up on the other side of the border with the necessary papers. Today they live in Bat Yam.

“I hardly recognise Galina and Valentin,” Alina tells me. “They’ve gone through a real transformation. Such a difference! They’ve gotten years younger!”

“Alina, you were so helpful to us at the time!” Galina says when bidding farewell. “You encouraged us so much! We would have gone crazy otherwise! But you helped us. Thank you, and thanks to our Rabbi Mendel – we will be grateful for what you did for the rest of our lives!”

Alina with Valentin and Galina during their encounter in Israel. | Photo: C4I


Emergency Campaign Ukraine Continues
The war is still a daily reality for our team in Ukraine. We continue our help to the Jewish communities in Ukraine and assist Jews that want to flee to the Promised Land. Your prayers and support are very much appreciated.
Your support for our emergency campaign is still very important! Any amount is welcome!


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