Ukraine-Russia war: Jewish refugees ready for aliyah

Holocaust survivor: I fled the Nazis and now I am fleeing from the Russians.

 Shoshana and Ze'ev Wolf from Odessa and their dog Donna will be making aliyah to Israel on Sunday (photo credit: AVISHAG SHA'AR YASHUV/IFCJ)
Shoshana and Ze'ev Wolf from Odessa and their dog Donna will be making aliyah to Israel on Sunday
(photo credit: AVISHAG SHA'AR YASHUV/IFCJ)

As a nine-year-old child during the Holocaust, eighty-nine-year-old Ana Galanichka of Vinnytsia, Ukraine, ran away to the Ural Mountains with her father on a horse-drawn cart and a freight train.

On Tuesday, Galanichka fled again, this time to Moldova, leaving behind the city where she worked as an engineer. Speaking at a shelter in Dacia Marin, Moldova, organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, she said she had the same feelings of fear she did back then.

“I fled the Nazis, and now I am fleeing the Russians,” she lamented “no one believed the Russians would do such a thing until the last minute when it happened.”

Galanichka said she thinks the time has come to immigrate to Israel, where no one will pursue her anymore. Her plans are not firm yet, because she still needs time to recover from the ordeal.

By contrast, Svetlana Mirzakova, 52, said she is already prepared to move to Israel on a flight out of Moldova sponsored by the fellowship on Sunday. Mirzakova was planning on making aliyah in a month to Israel, where her two grown children live. But when the Russians invaded Ukraine, she decided to expedite her move from Odessa.

 Odessa (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Odessa (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“It was very scary, but my bags were already packed, so it was time to go,” she said. “I waited at the border for a lot of time, and it was very cold. But after 12 hours, I made it here, and I am thankful to all those who helped give us shelter and food for free.”

Mirzakova left behind her 82-year-old mother, who endured World War II and who cried that her daughter must follow in her footsteps and be evacuated from her home.

Like Mirzakova, Ze’ev Vladimir Wolf will be flying to Israel on Sunday and making aliyah, as he puts it, “with my dog and my wife.”

Wolf, 62, is a carpenter and is concerned about how he will find work in Israel. But he left Odessa for the first time in his life on Tuesday, because he decided he had to flee the war.

His son Leonid, who lives in Modi’in, harried him to leave faster and promised to find him an apartment. His wife, Shoshana, smiled when told that she would soon be reunited with her son, as their dog, Donna, shivered outside in the cold.

“Yes, it feels good to be going home,” Ze’ev said.

The shelter, on the site of a Jewish camp, was packed with 280 Ukrainian refugees. When it filled to capacity, the IFCJ organized two more.

 Yosef Azriel Sverdlov and his daughter Yasmin Rivka fled from Odessa to safey in Moldova (credit: GIL HOFFMAN) Yosef Azriel Sverdlov and his daughter Yasmin Rivka fled from Odessa to safey in Moldova (credit: GIL HOFFMAN)

Choreographer Yosef Sverdlov came to the shelter with his mother, wife and four children, aged six to 13, who all speak perfect Hebrew, which they were taught in their Jewish school in Odessa.

His 13-year-old daughter, Yasmin Rivka, said they traveled 17 hours by bus because of a “giant traffic jam,” waited at the border in the cold for too long and then drove another two-and-a-half hours to the shelter. She said it was scary at night in Odessa because of blasts and sirens, but she eventually got used to the noise, and wants to return to her friends in Odessa as soon as possible.

“I like my grandparents in Israel, but I don’t want to live there,” she admitted. “I don’t want to think about not going home.”