While providing humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees on the Moldovan border, as well as around the Moldovan capital of Chisinau at several refugee centers, United Hatzalah’s team and its volunteers have also undertaken a series of small-scale covert missions inside Ukraine itself.
United Hatzalah purchased four local ambulances last week in an effort to facilitate these rescue missions.
The group sent special teams inside Ukraine from Moldova and Slovakia with the purpose of distributing medical supplies to hospitals near the western border and to rescue and recover injured and ill people who wish to flee the war-torn country but are unable to do so due to medical conditions.
United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yehiel Gurfein, who has been in Moldova continuously since Operation Orange Wings began on February 27, together with Vladimir, a local volunteer from the Jewish community of Moldova, departed Moldova to bring the much-needed medical supplies to the Ukrainian citizens.
The equipment included trauma bandages, tourniquets, medications, and food.
During one of these missions, which took place on Sunday morning, a group of Jewish Ukrainians who stayed back to protect property in their community, such as businesses and synagogues, contacted the organization and requested medical supplies and trauma care equipment.
These people are not trained soldiers nor do they have sufficient medical training. They are fathers who were not allowed to leave the country with their wives and children.
Ukraine has made military conscription mandatory following the Russian invasion and has barred all men of fighting age from leaving the country.
These men have since organized on their own and risked their lives to protect the lives and property of others in their communities.
After several hours of travel with constant barrages of rockets and explosions in the distance, Yechiel and Vladimir met up with personnel on the Ukrainian side and began instructing the men on how to properly use the newly received equipment.
During Yechiel and Vladimir’s trip into Ukraine, United Hatzalah’s dispatch in Chisinau received a heartbreaking request from a family of Ukrainians who fled to Israel just a few days prior.
Upon their entry into Israel, they did not have the correct documentation to prove that they were Jewish and were facing bureaucratic difficulties, said documents were necessary to be eligible to fully immigrate to Israel
The family was told that if they weren’t able to provide proof of their Jewishness, then at the end of the grace period that Israel was ascribing to all refugees, they would be deported from the country.
The documents the family needed have remained at their home in Ukraine, in the same city where Yechiel and Vladimir were delivering medical equipment.
“I was in touch with Yechiel and Vladimir throughout this difficult operation that was fraught with peril. Over the course of the mission, I received continuous reports from both sides and issued instructions to safeguard the health and safety of all involved,” David Krispil, the commander of United Hatzalah’s Operation Orange Wings mission, said.
Yechiel coordinated with locals in Ukraine and asked them to try and get to the family’s abandoned home to retrieve the documents so that the family in Israel could complete their Aliyah properly.
The local team of Ukrainians managed to locate the family home and were able to acquire the documents. When Yechiel and Vladimir arrived and handed over the medical supplies, they received the documents in return.
After traveling back to Chisinau HQ, they handed the documents to volunteers who are returning to Israel on one of the organization’s rescue flights, which was evacuating 165 Ukrainian refugees.
“The undercover delivery of food and medical supplies to people inside Ukraine is of vital importance and saves lives. Later in the day, a second mission took place in which we delivered lifesaving medication to a Ukrainian man in Odesa who had been without his medication for nearly two weeks. Without immediate intervention, this man would not have survived,” Krispil said.
“I am proud of Yechiel, Vladimir, and all the other members of our team who are undertaking these covert missions and helping to save lives each and every day inside Ukraine and on the borders. It is the least that we can do to mitigate the human tragedy of this war,” he added.