A delegation of 15 United Hatzalah volunteers arrived in Moldova on Sunday evening after departing Israel late Saturday night, equipped with cases upon cases of medical aid and ready to assist Ukrainian refugees at the countries’ shared border.
Upon landing in Romania on Sunday morning, they then embarked on a 10-hour drive, arriving in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. From there, the team is headed to the border crossings, ready to provide medical aid and assistance to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian war machine.
David Krispil, mission commander of the Ukraine delegation and a United Hatzalah emergency medical technician gave The Jerusalem Post his first-hand account of the experience so far, detailing the lengths to which his team went in order to make sure they could be on the scene providing vital services to those in need.
“On Saturday night, we set off with an initial group of 12 delegation members who, without hesitation and just a few hours of notice, left everything behind – their families, their plans, their lives – and joined the mission to assist refugees from Ukraine fleeing the conflict,” he explained.
“They too left everything behind to make their way to the border with Moldova in order to escape the fighting. Many of them said goodbye to loved ones as they did so.”
The delegation is made up of paramedics, EMTs, operation and logistics personnel, as well as members of the organization’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, which specializes in providing emotional stabilization and psychological first aid during tragedies and disasters.
The journey from Romania, where they landed and up to Chisinau, was long and cramped and there was concern that there would not be room in the small minibus for all the equipment, as well as 15 delegation members, he recalled.
“But,” he continued, “we decided to make every effort not to leave anything because it was all needed by the refugees at the borders. It took a few minutes and a lot of effort, but we packed the huge amount of aid and equipment into the minibus and set out for a long 10-hour drive.”
In spite of the worry and the tense situation on everyone’s minds, people were excited to receive the delegation, Krispin said.
“The crew on the plane, at the border crossings, and everyone we met along the way, they were all excited to see us. Here we were, volunteers from an emergency service organization with Israeli flags on our way to assist the refugees from Ukraine who are gathering along the borders, and the people we met along the way were inspired by this and generously assisted us in every way they could.”
AFTER ARRIVING in the Moldovan capital, the team headed straight to meet Chief Rabbi of Moldova Pinchas Salzman, as well as a group of Jewish refugees who had already made their way across the Ukrainian border. Before entering their strategy meeting in preparation for the work ahead of them, the delegation spent some time with the refugee group, making sure to meet with the children, many of whom had fled without a single one of their belongings because of lack of time.
The Hatzalah volunteers spent time with the children, talking to them and handing out toys donated by children back in Israel.
“All of the children were excited to try on our volunteers’ vests and helmets and walk around with us like they were part of our delegation,” Krispin recounted. “I was thrilled that we were able to help these children feel like children once again and have an opportunity to play and smile. Making them feel comfortable and happy during this extremely difficult time is terribly important for their psychological well-being.”
Following this, the team moved on to preparing for the reason they were there: to offer medical assistance to refugees at the border.
“We set up a logistics compound, a command room with the help of a Jewish technician who was also a refugee who fled Ukraine,” Krispin explained. “We also established a medical compound, a refugee aid clinic, where a team of our paramedics and EMTs would be staying around the clock to treat patients.”
Also joining the team was Dr. Zev Neuwirth, one of three volunteers joining the team from Miami, Florida. Also present on the team is Sheba Beyond representative Sarit Lerner, who will be working with Sheba Medical Center doctors back in Israel to provide remote care through telemedicine and direct consultations with specialists.
Highlighting the long day of work that the delegation faced even after their full day of travel, Krispin summarized the next steps they were required to take before heading to the border.
“We conducted an assessment with our emergency personnel to understand the situation at the borders and in Moldova and the assistance that would be required of us,” he told the Post.
“We were divided into professional work teams to connect with local authorities in preparation for the departure of aid teams to the border crossings between Ukraine and Moldova which would be taking place the next day.”
By this point, he emphasized, the entire team had been awake for over 24 hours, and there was still more to be done as they held consultations with United Hatzalah management regarding the situation on the ground and the additional assistance they thought necessary to receive.
However, he said, highlighting the moments of happiness found between the chaotic hours of travel, planning and preparation, the delegation still found time for “a few minutes of pure happiness and serenity when two weddings for Jewish refugees from Ukraine were held in the nearby synagogue complex.”
With their day finally over, the group headed for their accommodations in an old hotel that had been closed for several years but reopened specifically for the purpose of accommodating refugees and relief delegations.
Summarizing his thoughts on the mission ahead of him, Krispin expressed only pride and hope.
“We are proud,” he concluded, “to represent United Hatzalah and the State of Israel and to assist any refugees who require assistance here.”