A worldwide effort by the FJC and Chabad secures transportation for the Jewish refugees fleeing Ukraine
Sitting in the ad hoc crisis center in Kfar Chabad, Central Israel, “Chaim” has been on the phone with Jews across Ukraine for nearly 14 hours. In call after call, he has been reiterating the same point: “Get out while you can. We will help you leave Ukraine and bring you to Israel if that’s what you want, but you must leave now!”
Sometimes he succeeds, but other times he is met with resistance. Some people cannot bear to leave homebound relatives, some do not wish to leave the comfort of home, and others just don’t believe things will get much worse.
For some, it is too late. It is impossible to leave Kherson, for example. The humanitarian situation in Mariupol is even worse. The coastal city is under siege and is being bombarded night and day. Its population of 400,000 is without electricity or water, and food is running out.
On Tuesday alone, 54 buses carrying Jewish refugees from all over Ukraine have been dispatched to the border, heading to Moldova, Romania, and Poland, where they are housed by the FJC in refugee camps until they are assisted in relocating toward Western and Central Europe or placed on chartered flights to Israel.
The buses are often staffed with armed security guards and cost an average of $12,000 per trip.
In some instances, buses are commissioned but are then unable to reach the dispatch depot (most often the city’s JCC) due to the havoc. And in other cases, it is deemed too dangerous to leave the city.
Yet, day after day, busloads of people are brought to safety by FJC representatives and Chabad emissaries, some of whom are still in Ukraine and some of whom have stationed themselves in bordering countries or even Israel, where the command center has been set up in conjunction with Israeli aid organizations.
Thus far, an estimated 185 coach buses and 300 minibusses have carried 15,000 Ukrainians to safety, and an additional 7,200 have been transported by train.
The work is expected to continue as long as necessary, and organizers are lining up buses for an expected 250 trips over the next ten days, with the understanding that the situation remains fluid and the shifting facts on the ground may severely impact their work.
For his part, Chaim and his peers at the call center are continuing their work unabated. “There are lives to be saved, and there’s no way we can live with ourselves if we don’t do our best to help everyone we come in contact with!”
Based on an article by Menachem Posner | Chabad.org