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Why Ukraine's Holocaust survivors are taking shelter in Israel

As of this writing, over conflicts have moved abroad to escape the Russian onslaught, according to the United Nations. 

That includes Holocaust survivors who have now moved to Israel. 

RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE: LIVE UPDATES

In new information shared with Fox News Digital on Thursday, April 28, 2022, Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of The Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said, “Since the beginning of this crisis, thanks to the generosity of our donors, we’ve been able to bring over 2,600 [immigrants] from Ukraine to Israel and help several thousand more evacuate the war zone and find safety at our shelters in Chisinau.”

She added, “It is crystal clear that the dedicated Christian friends of The Fellowship are literally saving lives every single day.”

“I said to myself: ‘Oh my God, what a nightmare! Here we go again with the war, bombings, evacuations … ’”

She said she is “more thankful than I ever have been for the generosity that makes these rescue operations possible, since Jewish populations in Ukraine are now in greater danger than they’ve been at any time since World War II.”

Some of the following people know that all too well.

‘Have lived through two tragedies’

Valerie Bendersky was a mere 7 years old when he fled to Kazakhstan to escape the Nazi invasion of Ukraine. 

Emergency workers clear up debris after an airstrike hit a tire shop in the western city of Lviv, Ukraine, on Monday, April 25, 2022. 

Emergency workers clear up debris after an airstrike hit a tire shop in the western city of Lviv, Ukraine, on Monday, April 25, 2022. 
(AP/Philip Crowther)

Now, nearly 80 years later, he’s left his homeland once again, this time because of the Russian forces’ invasion of his country. 

Bendersky is one of nearly 300 Jewish Holocaust survivors from Ukraine who have been granted refuge in Israel, ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine more than 60 days ago.

“I have lived through two tragedies,” the 85-year-old told Reuters, speaking from Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv. 

Ukrainian families wait to board a train at Kramatorsk central station as they flee the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbas region, in early April.

Ukrainian families wait to board a train at Kramatorsk central station as they flee the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbas region, in early April.
(Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

“I was fleeing from Hitler then. Now I have fled from Putin. Naturally, it is hard,” he also said.

Thought their suffering was over

Before February 2022, most Ukrainian Jews believed their days of suffering were over, Eckstein recently told Fox News Digital ahead of the start of Passover this year.

Now, she said, “a time similar to the very first Passover is taking place in Ukraine.” 

Many thousands of Jewish people, “including some Holocaust survivors, are fleeing oppression [from Russia’s forces] and [are] praying for God’s miraculous deliverance,” Eckstein shared recently.

Yael Eckstein, who runs The Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said many thousands of Jewish people are "praying for God's miraculous deliverance."

Yael Eckstein, who runs The Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said many thousands of Jewish people are "praying for God’s miraculous deliverance."

Passover, which commemorates the Jewish people’s escape from slavery in Egypt, typically lasts 7 days. 

But in Ukraine this year, said Eckstein, the Passover remembrance was “anything but festive” for all those desperately trying to flee their war-torn country with their lives and whatever possessions they could manage to take with them. 

‘What a nightmare’

Becoming a refugee is especially hard for elderly people who thought they would never, ever see war again. 

“I said to myself: ‘Oh my God, what a nightmare! Here we go again with the war, bombings, evacuation, leaving your home behind, not being sure if you’ll stay alive or not’,” 100-year-old Dova Govergeviz told Reuters.

“Now it turns out that we’re fighting against the country that we used to call our ‘elder brother.’”

Hailing from Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, she was in her 20s when she had to abandon her home for the first time with her mother. Then, she took shelter hundreds of miles to the east in Uzbekistan until the end of World War II.  

conflicts

“We knew that we had an enemy [back then] — Hitler. Hitler and Germany had attacked our country. But now it turns out to be that we’re fighting against the country that we used to call our ‘elder brother’,” she said, referring, of course, to Russia.

When the invasion started, Govergeviz initially locked herself in her house, all alone, before deciding that she wanted to immigrate to Israel and stay there for the rest of her life. She believed it to be the safest place for Jews.

UKRAINIAN FAMILY FACES HEARTBREAK AS FATHER MUST SEND SON AWAY FROM HARM

Some 161,400 Holocaust survivors and victims of anti-Semitism during the Nazi era live in Israel. The country commemorated the six million victims of the Holocaust on Thursday of this week, with sirens sounding for two minutes.

‘I left everything back there, even my glasses’

Govergeviz is now staying in a care home in the coastal town of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. 

Her journey was organized by Zaka, an Israeli emergency rescue and recovery group, while Bendersky was flown there by the Jewish Agency, which provides “aliyah,” or “ascent,” to Israel for Jews around the world.

Tetiana Oleksiienko cries as she stands at the gate of her house in the village of Andriivka, Ukraine, which was heavily affected by fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. 

Tetiana Oleksiienko cries as she stands at the gate of her house in the village of Andriivka, Ukraine, which was heavily affected by fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda))

Bendersky had to flee his home in Kharkiv in a hurry, given that this eastern Ukrainian city was coming under repeated shell fire. 

“I left everything back there, even my glasses,” he said.

Bendersky hopes that the West ultimately will force the Russian invading forces to leave Ukraine. “Can’t they let us live out our lives peacefully?” he said.

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Reuters contributed reporting to this article.

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