90 Ukrainian Jewish refugees arrived in Israel to begin a new chapter of their lives on Wednesday, February 8, on a chartered flight made possible by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ). The group joined more than 15,000 people who have already made aliya since the outbreak of the war in late February 2022. While the majority of the refugee immigrants arrived in the early weeks and months of the conflict after fleeing westward into Poland and Moldova, recent efforts by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and partner agencies have focused on helping those who chose to stay behind but were later forced out of their homes by the fighting.
Israel’s Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ofir Sofer was on hand at the airport as the flight arrived and said, “I am here to say that you have come home. As one of the first members of Knesset to travel to the refugee camps to see how Israel could assist in bringing people to Israel, it is deeply moving to now stand here as the Minister of Immigrant Absorption. Our Ministry stands ready to do everything possible to assist in their absorption and I am already working to address their needs of language education alongside other areas of need. I view the successful absorption of the immigrant community as an issue of national importance and we are here to assist them in learning a new language and culture as well as being integrated into the national workforce.”
“This latest flight of 90 new Israelis comes after a year of war and bloodshed where we have been able to assist over 5,000 people to flee that carnage,” said Yael Eckstein, President of IFCJ. “Together with our partners in the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency and others, we view it as a source of immeasurable pride to be able to give these special individuals and families the promise of new lives of safety, security and hope in the Jewish homeland.”
Among the passengers on the flight were three members of the Pumreykov family; Sergei (41), Ludmilla (36) and their daughter Ksenia (8). Sergei describes the last year as a “living hell” saying, “The most common sound we would hear was the air raid siren. We lived on the 10th floor of our building and every time the siren wailed, I’d grab my wife and daughter and run as fast as possible down the stairs to the basement shelter. I would encourage Ksenia by saying it was a game to see who could get there fastest. It was terrifying. There were constant power outages and we were sitting for hours in the cold and dark. We realized we couldn’t live like that anymore.”
A computer programmer by trade, Sergei says he hopes to continue to work in his field in Israel and said that the family had dreamed of Aliyah even before the coronavirus pandemic. “I am deeply thankful to the IFCJ for giving our child the hope of a better life. Every day, all I wish for is that she will be able to laugh, and meet other children her age. That is our dream for our new life in Israel.”
IFCJ has committed over $26 million towards helping thousands of Ukrainian refugees fly to Israel and set up new homes and livelihoods over the past year, building on their thirty year involvement in supporting immigration to Israel. Since that time, over 800 million shekel has been invested to assist the aliya of 750,000 people, a large percentage of them coming from the former Soviet Union. In addition to assisting in the practical challenges of immigration, IFCJ funding supports the ongoing integration into Israel including welfare assistance for needy immigrants, particularly families and the elderly, and is made possible in partnership with the Joint (JDC) and Colel Chabad.