CBN Israel Has Been a Lifeline to Ukrainian Refugees for Two Years Since the Russian Invasion Began

By Nicole Jansezian

It has been two years since Russia invaded Ukraine and while that war still rages, refugees and immigrants attempting to rebuild their lives in Israel are facing several battlefronts here. 

Natalia Esther, who was living in Mariupol when the Russians attacked, is now reliving war with her son serving in the Israeli military.

“My son started the army right before the war and is stationed in the south” close to the Gaza border, she said. “It is very difficult for me.”

But Natalia said she feels safer in Israel where at least there are bomb shelters.

“Back in Mariupol we had to hide in a well, which is not much of a shelter. We felt like no one cared,” she said. “Everyone had to fend for themselves.”

Another war isn’t the only challenge these new immigrants are facing. Finding work, assimilating into a Middle Eastern culture, and leaving loved ones behind, Ukrainians who made their way to Israel are still struggling on many levels. 

Julia Morskoy had to start her life over from scratch. She fled the bombings in Ukraine with two kids, a few suitcases and a cat. Her husband, however, had to stay due to Ukraine’s emergency laws preventing military age men from leaving the country. 

“It was scary in the beginning. I did not know the language and had no idea what to do next,” Julia said. “Money was a problem, and things were tight. The kids always needed something, and they faced difficult challenges at school. There were all kinds of adaptation problems.” 

“It’s hard for me to find work because my Hebrew isn’t good,” she said. “It’ll take some time to learn, and you need Hebrew to get a good job.”

Some of the refugees faced another problem: They already had Israeli citizenship and were not eligible for the benefits that come with immigration. 

“Their economic situation became much, much worse,” said Dmitry Schneidmann, Project Manager at CBN Israel. “With no income and no government support because they are already (former) immigrants, many of them, in their current situation, are even worse off.”

The war began on February 24, 2022 sparking massive emigration from both Ukraine and Russia. Many of these refugees sought shelter in Israel. More than 43,000 Russians and 15,000 Ukrainians made Aliyah in 2022 accounting for almost 80% of Israel’s total immigration that year. In fact, emigration from Russia is trending so high that half of the Jewish population of Russia will be gone in seven years, according to a report released this week by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

For Natalia, the war started back in 2014 traumatizing her daughter and causing a cascade of health issues. Natalia and her children came to Israel, but her mother didn’t make it out of Mariupol when this recent war brought out. 

Julia is praying that her husband will be released and able to join the family soon, but in the meantime, her children are adjusting and support from compassionate friends like you through CBN Israel is helping her make ends meet. 

“When someone helps you it’s a great feeling. Your help was a great support,” she said. “You gave us a refrigerator, you gave us a washing machine, and you brought us food. It would have been hard without this help. The support is moral as much as financial. You’re not alone, you feel there’s someone there for you.”

“Everything will be fine, it will get better,” she said. “My kids are with me, we are safe.”

Natalia was so encouraged by the support she received, she wanted to help others herself. 

“When I received your help, I started telling others,” she said. “I would see people in need, and I would tell them they can get help.”

CBN Israel supports new immigrants and refugees through a number of different programs in Israel both financially and in promoting absorption efforts. 

“Our support is very important, critically important,” said Schneidmann. “It is also encouragement.”

Nicole Jansezian is the media coordinator for CBN Israel. A long-time journalist, Nicole was previously the news editor of All Israel News and All Arab News and a journalist at The Associated Press. On her YouTube channel, Nicole gives a platform to the minority communities in Jerusalem and highlights stories of fascinating people in this intense city. Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., she lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Tony, and their three children.

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