On the United Hatzalah delegation to Ukraine, we met so many incredible people, people, who like us, came from all over the world to help the Ukrainian refugees in their plight. Being based in Chisinau, Moldova, we met plenty of locals who assisted us in helping the refugees as well. This past Friday, one such story occurred, where an act of kindness gave me a new understanding of just the kind of impact we were making, not only on the refugees but on the local community as well. The story took place as we received help from an unexpected source while we were having car troubles.
To put the story into proper context, I will start by saying that the car which we were driving was given to us by a Jewish Ukrainian family who fled to Chisinau with their vehicle and then flew on one of the rescue planes to Israel as part of Operation Orange Wings. When the family left for Israel, they gave the keys to their car to our team leaders and told us that we could use the vehicle for the purpose of helping other refugees and the Jewish community as a whole.
On Friday, as we were driving in the car with a team of volunteers to visit Ukrainian refugees in one of the local refugee centers in the city and bring them supplies, large amounts of smoke started rising from the car’s hood. We stopped by a nearby gas station to take a look. At first, we thought maybe there was a problem with the oil and it had to be changed. As we were checking everything out, three local Moldovan citizens came over to us and offered to have a look at the engine and see what they can do to help.
They said that they recognized our orange jackets from the local news and they knew that we were the “Orange ones” who came to help Ukrainian refugees. The trio of locals applauded us for what we are doing. They did what they could and after a few minutes, the problem was solved temporarily. There was no more smoke, but we knew that we still needed to have the car checked out by a professional as soon as possible.
We started driving again, and towards the afternoon, we realized that the air pressure in the tires was low. On the way to a gas station to fill them up, large amounts of smoke started pouring out of the hood once again, this time even more than the first time. We slowed down and stopped on the side of the road. At this point, our hearts sank because we knew that there was a real problem that we had no idea how to fix and we were already delayed due to our earlier stop that morning.
We stepped out of the car and to our luck, we spotted a repair garage a few meters from where we had stopped. We went inside and asked for help. It was difficult to communicate with the staff because they didn't speak English, but we figured it out with translation apps and such. We brought the mechanic over to our car to have a look and see what he could do to fix it. He wordlessly opened the engine cover and began working straight away.
We thanked the staff so much for their help and asked what they think the problem is and what we can do to help. They said that there is a clog in one of the pipes in the ventilator and some other minor problems and it was pretty straightforward to fix. They needed a certain kind of fluid to pour into the engine so we said we’ll take a taxi to buy the fluid needed. One of the owners of the garage said that we shouldn't take a taxi, instead, he’ll drive us.
When we came back with the fluid and they finished fixing the car, we asked the owners for the bill. They said they didn’t change any parts, just fixed what was there, and didn’t accept any money from us. We kept insisting they take payment, after all, they deserved it, they had worked hard on fixing our car for nearly an hour. However, the mechanic and his team were adamant that they would not accept our money.
While we waited for them to fill up the tires with air, they brought us coffee, cigarettes, and food. We didn’t understand what it was all for and assumed it was just complementary to the services and all customers were treated this way. Before we left, they still hadn’t asked us for any money so we handed them a tip for their service, an equivalent of around 20 Israeli shekels. They refused even this.
That is when we finally understood why they kept refusing our payment. They told us that they recognized us from the news and knew that we came all the way from Israel to help the refugees at the borders and that they couldn’t accept money from “the orange ones.”
They said that they know how much we do for the Ukrainians and how we help each and every person that needs it. They were not willing to take even a single leu because of this. We were so shocked by their kindness and their respect that we didn’t know what to say.
These people are proof that there are so many good people in the world. Both the Moldovan citizens who helped us in the morning and the mechanics who helped us in the afternoon had such caring souls. Anyone can be an angel by helping someone in need, it's not something you need an orange jacket for. And when these people saw our orange jackets, they shocked us all and became our angels, helping us in a time of need without even accepting payment.