90-year-old Holocaust and Holodomor survivor stuck in Poland, UK Jewish leader says

In a letter to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, the head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews encouraged the government to speed up its assistance programs for Ukrainian refugees.

 People fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine queue to board a shuttle bus after crossing the border from Ukraine to Poland at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland, March 8, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)
People fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine queue to board a shuttle bus after crossing the border from Ukraine to Poland at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland, March 8, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)

The Board of Deputies of British Jews cited the case of a 90-year-old Holocaust and Holodomor survivor who fled Ukraine and was stranded in Warsaw in order to call on UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to speed up its immigration program for people fleeing the war.

"The Jewish community has been moved in particular by a case of a 90-year-old Holocaust and Holodomor survivor, who is currently living in makeshift accommodation in Poland, but whose granddaughter in London is desperately trying to bring her over to ensure that she has the care and support she needs," the board's president Marie van der Zyl wrote in a letter to Patel dated March 8.

Van der Zyl wrote that her organization is the head of the democratic and representative body of the UK Jewish community.

"For that one story we know about, there are likely to be thousands of refugees, of all faiths and none, facing similar circumstances," she wrote.

"I am therefore asking for you to substantially increase capacity for delivering the family sponsorship program and establish the humanitarian sponsorship pathway – for which all Ukrainian refugees are eligible – as quickly as possible," van der Zyl wrote.

UK Board of Deputies Head Marie van der Zyl. (credit: COURTESY UK BOARD OF DEPUTIES)UK Board of Deputies Head Marie van der Zyl. (credit: COURTESY UK BOARD OF DEPUTIES)
"Once the humanitarian sponsorship pathway is established, the Jewish community stands ready toplay its part in supporting the UK Government in this important task."

The family sponsorship program, called the Ukraine Family Scheme, allows people settled in the UK to bring immediate and extended family members – including grandparents – from Ukraine to the UK.

The UK is also working to establish a program called the Local Sponsorship Scheme intended for Ukrainians with no ties to the UK, in which sponsors, such as communities or local authorities, will be able to bring people in. The sponsored individuals will be able to work and the sponsor would provide housing and integration support, according to the Home Secretary's website.

Over 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the war began on February 24, the majority of whom are currently in Poland.