Grassroots groups help rescue Holocaust survivors in Ukraine

Russia Ukraine War Jewish Refugees 71424

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Because the shelling started to accentuate in Kyiv and Kharkiv a few week in the past, Julia Entin…

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Because the shelling started to accentuate in Kyiv and Kharkiv a few week in the past, Julia Entin has been working feverishly — 1000’s of miles away in Los Angeles — to evacuate Holocaust survivors in Ukraine who discover themselves trapped in one more battle.

For the final six years, the 39-year-old paralegal at Beth Tzedek Authorized Companies has helped join Holocaust survivors with native companies. Now, Entin is coordinating rescue efforts in Ukraine as a result of she says she feels a private connection to their painful predicament.

“These are already survivors of extreme trauma,” mentioned Entin, a refugee from the previous Soviet Union and granddaughter of a Ukrainian Holocaust survivor. “And now with this battle, they’re experiencing that trauma over again.”

Entin is a strand in an intricate net of grassroots organizations — Jewish and non-Jewish — that has been spinning around the clock in Ukraine, working with taxi and bus operators to ferry members of susceptible communities out of the battle zone.

In a time of disaster when Jewish folks from Ukraine are trying to flee to and Israel, teams such because the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and companion organizations akin to Entin’s, have been serving to households stateside who need family members extricated. Many, Entin mentioned, have reached out to her immediately as a result of her work with Holocaust survivors.

Entin has been calling survivors in Ukraine, often with a member of the family or good friend on the road.

It may be difficult to determine fast rapport with older folks — many with critical well being points — huddled of their properties throughout wartime. Entin begins out by apologizing for talking in Russian, as an alternative of Ukrainian.

“I establish myself and inform them who I’m — the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor,” she mentioned. “I inform them how my grandfather was not evacuated and lived via (World Struggle II) beneath Nazi occupation. It’s a deep connection we’ve. And that helps construct belief.”

Entin has nonetheless had bother getting survivors to go away with trusted taxi or bus operators, who she says are vetted and recruited via referrals. This week, one man in his late 80s refused to go away as a result of he was afraid he may die on the best way.

“Convincing him has been an actual problem since you can’t assure — nobody can assure — that it received’t occur,” she mentioned.

This hesitation seems to be frequent among the many aged. Svetlana Jitomirskaya, a professor of arithmetic on the College of California, Irvine, has been talking together with her father’s 87-year-old good friend in Kharkiv, a Holocaust survivor.

“He refuses to go away, he doesn’t wish to transfer,” she mentioned, including that his 88-year-old spouse has medical points as effectively. “That is the heartbreaking half.”

However there have been just a few success tales which have stored Entin hopeful.

On Sunday, 81-year-old Holocaust survivor Valery Semenovich Zharkovsky, his daughter Inna Valerievna Zharkovskaya and her 8-year-old daughter, had been rescued from their dwelling in Kharkiv.

Entin mentioned Wednesday that the household arrived in Germany, the place Zharkovsky’s brother lives. She mentioned Jewish refugees sometimes select to go to Israel — its Legislation of Return lets Jewish folks make “aliyah” and purchase citizenship — or different components of the place they may obtain advantages, akin to well being care, immediately.

“No matter the place they select to go, it must be a ‘heat handoff,’ which suggests somebody will at all times be on the opposite aspect of the border to greet them and put them on the trail to their vacation spot,” Entin mentioned.

Zharkovsky’s cousin, Marina Sonina, who lives within the Chicago space, mentioned she was relieved to listen to her kin made it out safely. She spoke with him final Saturday, a day earlier than he left Ukraine.

“He was scared as a result of the state of affairs was actually dangerous,” she mentioned, choking up. “He’s not in good well being. I’m so relieved to listen to they’re all out of the hazard zone and in a secure place.”

With assaults intensifying, volunteers have been arriving on the Polish border to help evacuation efforts.

Liana Georgi — an artist, psychologist and LGBTQ activist who splits her time between Berlin and Istanbul — is amongst a core group of volunteers with Safebow, a gaggle fashioned by gender nonconforming actor and activist Rain Dove to conduct rescue operations.

The group has been speaking by way of WhatsApp and began “as a psychological help group to provide folks the braveness to flee,” mentioned Georgi, talking from Warsaw. “It’s about being there for one another, even when it’s nearly.”

Safebow has partnered with Entin’s group to evacuate Holocaust survivors, as effectively.

Georgi mentioned the group is specializing in rescuing susceptible minority teams, together with these within the LGBTQ group, the disabled and folks of coloration.

The Jewish Federation of Higher Los Angeles and the Jewish Federation of North America have been concerned in getting Jewish refugees from Ukraine to Israel, mentioned Rabbi Noah Farkas, president and CEO of the previous. He mentioned his group raised $1 in 4 days, with the struggling in Ukraine resonating with members of different diaspora communities in Los Angeles.

“Many right here in Los Angeles, even when they aren’t Russian or Ukrainian, see themselves on this story,” Farkas mentioned. “We’ve acquired donations from kids and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. We’ve a various group in Los Angeles — from Iran, Morocco and different Mizrahi communities.”

California can be dwelling to almost 60,000 Ukrainian immigrants, the second highest within the nation after New York, in line with the American Group Survey’s information from 2016 via 2020. The Los Angeles metropolitan space alone is dwelling to about 17,000 Ukrainians.

Jewish Federation of Los Angeles Vice President Aaron Goldberg, who is predicated close to Jerusalem, has helped join newly arrived refugees with much-needed companies.

“Our aim is to help their immigration and integration into Israeli society,” Goldberg mentioned.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has — in what consultants name a cynical ploy — claimed he wish to “denazify” Ukraine, which is led by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a Jewish president whose kin had been killed within the Holocaust. There are fears of renewed Jewish repression and a few of Russia’s remaining 250,000 Jews are additionally attempting to flee to Israel — however the course of has been extra sophisticated as a result of there should not practically as many sources, Goldberg mentioned.

“However, proper now, we don’t understand how the sanctions might have an effect on the Jewish group there,” he mentioned. “We’re retaining our ears to the bottom to see what wants come up within the Russian Jewish group.”

The work of evacuating Holocaust survivors in Ukraine is constant as bombings have escalated this week. On Tuesday, Entin mentioned she was working to assist three {couples} — all Holocaust survivors — who had been struggling after an evening of extra shelling and devastation in Kharkiv.

“One of many {couples} has no water and warmth,” she mentioned. “I’ve been up now for 38 hours straight attempting to determine issues out.”

Entin mentioned she was attempting to get a taxi driver to investigate cross-check the couple with out warmth — whose house was additionally beginning to flood.

“It’s been a tough evening,” she mentioned. “The spouse mentioned she doesn’t suppose her husband goes to dwell for lengthy.”


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