Many of the children live in Chabad’s orphanage in Odessa and the rest were sent by their parents, who stayed behind – in some cases to help younger children or elderly parents, and in some cases to fight.
The children – the youngest of whom is only 37 days old – left Odessa at 7 a.m. on four buses and arrived in Chisinau by 5 p.m. – a trip that normally takes three hours. But the roads are packed with cars full of refugees fleeing Ukraine and 40 of the kids, including the newborn, were not carrying documents.
For now, they will go to Berlin, where Chabad Rabbi Yehuda Tiechtel will look after them, hoping the war in Ukraine will end soon and that the children can return.
Daniel Svechnikov, 16, from Odessa, left behind his mother, who is taking care of his five-year-old brother, who has special needs.
“She is worried about me but she told me it was right to leave,” Svechnikov said. “I was scared, because I heard bombs. The Russians destroyed military targets near my home. At the border, I saw so many cars and people walking. Police helped us through traffic, and thank God we’re here.
Svechnikov said he wants to live in Israel, do his matriculation examinations and serve in the IDF. He said he hopes his family will follow him there.
Shoshana Khusid, 18, said her parents stayed behind to take care of her grandmother. She took her little brother and sister with her.
“It is very hard,” she said. “I was afraid because there were a lot of noisy sirens. From the first day of the war, I knew in my head that I had to go.”
The mission was helped by the Israeli embassy and Chabad and was funded by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which has allocated more than $4 million, donated by friends of Israel in the United States and Canada.
The grant is being transferred to Jewish organizations in the field and is assisting the Jewish community with food, medicine, emergency hotlines, evacuation, fuel and generators. The money will be used, among other things, for the activities of the Jewish Agency, Chabad, the Joint Distribution Committee, Tikva and other organizations that are active in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Operation “Israeli Guarantee” to rescue Ukrainian Jews will launch with Three special flights with about 300 immigrants will land at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday, March 6, in a joint operation by the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry, the Jewish Agency and the Fellowship, with the assistance of donations from the Jewish Federations in North America and Keren Hayesod.
Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano Sheta, Jewish Agency acting chairman Yaakov Hagoel and Fellowship president Yael Eckstein will welcome the immigrants at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Ukrainian Jews will arrive on three different flights. Two immigrant flights will depart from Warsaw, Poland and from Chisinau, Moldova. Another flight of about 100 orphans arranged by Chabad will depart from Iasi in Romania.
The new immigrants are refugees who escaped the fighting in Ukraine and were absorbed into the immigration centers opened by the Jewish Agency and IFCJ in the countries bordering Ukraine.
Immediately after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, the immigrants will be absorbed by the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption. The absorption consultants will take care to provide each immigrant with a broad initial absorption envelope for optimal adaptation and a special rights exercise procedure. In addition, the ministry’s staff will refer the immigrants to immediate and temporary housing solutions in hotels, which they have prepared in advance as part of the emergency plan for the absorption of Ukrainian Jews.
Zvika Klein in Warsaw contributed to this report.