Last week, a group of elderly Jews from Kyiv were taken to Lodz, Poland, to escape freezing conditions, as Russia’s war on Ukraine continues into its 11th month.
The group is the second of its kind to be rescued during a grueling 20-hour operation this month, with an earlier group of elderly Jews extracted to Lodz about two weeks ago, accompanied by a team of volunteers.
Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch of Kyiv described a difficult situation for the elderly Jews of the city.
“The cold is already reaching minus 10 degrees [Celsius], and most of the houses in the city are without heating. The long power outages make it impossible to heat the houses. When you add to that the water outages, and the food prices that became very expensive, it leads to a situation where many elderly people who are in their homes are freezing cold and hungry for bread,” Markovitch said.
These circumstances prompted the city’s Jewish community to try move their more frail members to a safer place for the winter. They were assisted by JCC (Jewish Community Center) Chabad in Kyiv, in cooperation with the Jewish community from South Hampton, London and from Poland.
“We realized that staying in an apartment without water, electricity and heating during the winter, may be more dangerous than the missiles. If we don’t find a solution to them, it may endanger lives,” Rabbi Markovitch said.
Many of the evacuees were unable to immigrate to Israel because of health issues, but Poland’s proximity to Ukraine makes it a more manageable alternative.
Leia, one of the war refugees, said, “The journey was very difficult, but now I am no longer afraid of dying of hunger, cold or bombs.”
Naum, who was left alone after his son was drafted to fight against the Russians, said, “I live on the eighth floor. I had a heart attack a few years ago; even with a stick it’s very hard for me to walk.”
While many want to go home after the war ends, Naum said about the evacuation destination: “Here we are together with our friends, much safer, and the people of the Jewish community in Kyiv and Lodz take care of everything we need.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.