Muslim women 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Despite the rush of many Palestinians to leave Gaza after the Hamas takeover, a number of Eastern European women married to Palestinians have decided to remain there.
Thirty-five-year-old Natalya, a Ukrainian national, is one of those who decided against leaving the Gaza Strip. She has lived in Gaza for almost 13 years and doesn't see herself and her family going back to Ukraine.
"My husband doesn't have a Ukrainian passport. Besides, his father is very ill, and we are afraid of leaving him, as nobody knows whether we will be able to come back to Gaza any time soon," she explained on Wednesday. Natalya's prime concern is that Gaza will run out of gas and food supplies. "Now the Israelis still supply us with electricity, water and gas, and we are not starving. But who know what will happen next?" she wandered.
Ironically, following the Hamas coup last week, the random shootings on Gaza streets have stopped, she said, and generally the people feel more secure than before. "You can see the movement of people in the streets, at the markets and clinics. I'm not a Hamas supporter, but you have to admit that they are much more organized than the Fatah people. Of course, if you are a Fatah activist then your life can be threatened" she said.
Natalya and other women who will stay in Gaza have adjusted to the peculiar lifestyle in the Gaza Strip: They are wearing hijabs and abayas and have mastered some Arabic.
Today, despite the threat of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, they do not see themselves leaving their lives and their families, "just like the wives of Russian revolutionaries in the 19th century," added Natalya. She and others like her will continue facing the uncertainty of their situation, fearing for their children and for their own lives and trying to adjust to a new life under Hamas.
Natalya's story is similar to those of hundreds of Russian, Ukrainian, Moldavian and Belorussian women, who married Palestinians who studied in the Former Soviet Union. During the Soviet era, the Communist Party subsidized university studies for thousands of students from Yemen, Egypt, Syria and the territories. Some of them got married during their studies and brought their Russian and Ukrainian wives back home.
Until recently, approximately 500 women from FSU lived in the Gaza Strip and raised families there - one of the largest foreign communities in Gaza. Some, like Marina, opened businesses - a nail salon, a tailor shop. Others worked as nurses and doctors.
Although one can hardly find a place more different from Moscow or Kiev than Gaza, Marina and many other Russian wives say they felt Gaza was their home. However, on Wednesday more then half of them were able to leave the Strip via the Erez crossing to Amman. From there they will fly back to Moscow, Kiev and Minsk and will try to start a new life there.
"I'm very anxious about the future. I still have family in Voronezh, but I didn't live there for a while, and I don't know how we will survive there, how much children who were born in Gaza will adapt to the new life," Marina said.
Some 200 other women who hold Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian passports will stay in burning Gaza. "Evacuation is voluntary, we do not force anyone to go," said Alexei Pogodin, a Russian Foreign Ministry official in the PA.
A few of the women who will be left behind have lived in the area for many years and do not have any ties with their homeland. Others found out that their husbands will not be able to leave the Strip at this point, and are afraid to be separated from them.