Since February 24th, numerous Ukrainian families have been broken apart, millions of people have been displaced, and thousands have been injured or killed. Many of them did not have the time to make an escape plan, just to gather their family members and seek shelter. Families have made perilous and difficult journeys, hoping to find a safe place for themselves and their children.
World Jewish Relief has been on the ground in Ukraine from the very beginning, partnering with local organisations, helping refugees and internally displaced Ukrainians. We have been continuously working to provide essential financial aid, supplies, and shelter through the funds generously donated by our community.
We recently had the chance to speak to Ukrainian refugees, to hear from families who we have helped find safety. We are sharing their stories to highlight the importance of our work, in collaboration with our local partners.
Valentina, a Ukrainian Refugee
We had two goals, to survive and somehow to avoid getting sick since it was impossible to access medicine back then.
Valentina fled with her two sons and husband after they heard the first explosions on February 24th. Leaving everything behind and facing uncertainty in search of shelter, they moved a total of five times before finding somewhere they thought was safe. However, while Valentina and her family were hiding, an airstrike blew out the windows and damaged the walls of the building, forcing them to flee once again.
The situation only worsened when the family attempted to evacuate, but were prevented the first two times due to heavy shelling. A third attempt proved successful, and took the family one full day, going through checkpoints and driving across fields to get to safety. Valentina and her family eventually arrived in Poltova, finally reunited with her mother. Valentina and her two sons are now in Italy, learning Italian, whilst her husband remained in Poltova to volunteer for the war effort.
The Ukraine war has become the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Valentina and her sons (aged four and nine) are part of the 8 million who have fled Ukraine. Thanks to financial support from World Jewish Relief, the family were able to buy the essentials to make the journey out of the conflict zone.
A Love Story in the Midst of a War-zone
After fleeing from their home - Anna, her son, and her partner now live in Chertkov. This became their final destination after Anna’s partner received a job offer in the city. The family evacuated on 20th March, but before they reached Chertkov, their 10-day-long journey entailed passing lengthy military checkpoints. During one of these checkpoints, their convoy came under fire, forcing the family to hide in a ditch, praying for the shelling to stop before continuing their journey to Chertkov.
There was no light, no communication. Only fear.
Despite the devastation of the journey, both emotionally and physically, it strengthened the bonds between Anna and her partner. They decided to get married, in the relative safety of Chertkov, to celebrate love and life.
World Jewish Relief continues to work in Ukraine with partner organisations to ship essential supplies into Ukraine. Support from World Jewish Relief allowed the family to buy essentials and school supplies for Anna’s 11-year-old daughter.
Ella, 51 and Mother of Three
My room is a place for rehabilitation not only for the children but for me as well.
Ella was working as a primary school teacher and psychologist when she suddenly received a message from the school’s principal, stating that all staff and pupils should remain at home for their own safety. The next day, Russian forces entered and settled in the school where Ella had been teaching.
Once electricity, water, and communications were down, Ella understood that she needed to leave and - with the help of her eldest daughter - find a safe place to stay. Ella spent days on the road, staying at shelters for displaced people. After 200 kilometres and 13 hours of travelling, she finally arrived in Khmelnytskyi, where she was reunited with her daughter.
Despite the trauma of her escape, Ella is keen to use her professional experience to help families with children through the My Room Project, funded by World Jewish Relief. She uses her room as a safe place for children to learn and work.
Irina, a Ukranian Refugee Living in Poland
It’s that kindness that keeps me going.
Just like so many, Irina and her family lived a peaceful life in Ukraine before the war. Now, Irina and her family are refugees living in Krakow, Poland. They were amongst the lucky ones who made it out alive, spending two weeks in a basement shelter while Kharkiv was heavily shelled.
Irina described to us the extremely difficult time she had adapting to the situation. The train journey out of Kharkiv was gruelling, crammed into a train carriage for hours on end before finally reaching Krakow. This was when our local partner, JCC Krakow, stepped in and supported Irina and her family, setting them up in a hotel room.
Every person who gives food, every person who donates water, everyone who buys a box of cookies to give hope to a child, there’s just no way to thank them. It’s that kindness that keeps me going.
Our collaboration with local community organisations in Ukraine, Poland, and Romania helps us to deliver support quickly and effectively. It is these stories that keep us going. Our continuous support through projects in Ukraine is a step in the right direction. But our work is far from over; millions of people still need our help.
Learn more about our support to Ukrainians, and donate today, at www.worldjewishrelief.org/ukrainecrisis.