(Putin a ordonat arsenalului atomic să fie în alertă maximă. Public acest articol temându-mă nu doar pentru Ucraina, ci și pentru Moldova și România)
In Ukraine, The Escape Road Not Taken
February 27, 2022 | by Sara Yoheved Rigler
The Jews of the Ukraine are facing two levels of danger.
I cried when I read about the busses lined up in Uman to transport the Jews to the Kiev airport from which they could fly to safety in Israel. As soon as the Russian bombs started to fall on Thursday, the bus drivers naturally ran home to be with their families, leaving the Jews stranded.
All the citizens of the Ukraine are in danger in the face of the Russian invasion. Jews, however, face a double layer of danger. The default European reaction in times of crisis is to scapegoat the Jews. The history of Ukrainian treatment of Jews, from massacres and pogroms to their unbridled support of the Nazis, does not auger well for the Jews now trapped in this war. Indeed, during the 2014 conflict between Russia and Ukraine, anti-Semitic incidents were reported.
“Until yesterday morning no one believed this could actually happen.”
Anticipating the danger a month ago, Israel sprang into action. The Israeli government devised a contingency plan to bring all 200,000* Ukrainian Jews to Israel, as they had done with the airlift of endangered Ethiopian Jews in 1991. Israel would send planes to airlift the Jews to safety in Israel, provide them with places to live, food, world-class medical care, and all their needs as they settled into their new home. As diplomats from all other countries were fleeing the Ukraine, Israel sent in extra diplomats to process the anticipated wave of fugitives.
On Sunday, February 20, with the Russian invasion imminent, Israel opened its Kiev embassy and Lvov consulate, normally closed on Sundays, for the expected throngs of Jews seeking escape. Ten people showed up at the Kiev embassy, three in Lvov.
That Sunday, two planes of Ukrainian Jews landed in Israel. One held 75 people, the other 22 people.
When Russia launched its invasion on Thursday, Rabbi Moshe Weber, a Chabad emissary in the eastern-Ukraine city of Dnipro, announced, “Until yesterday morning no one believed this could actually happen… There’s definitely a sense of shock here.”
Echoes of the Past
I cried for a second reason when I read about the immobilized busses in Uman, the escape road not taken. It reminded me of a story in Eli Wiesel’s autobiography.
The Nazis occupied Hungary in March, 1944. By that time most of Europe’s Jews had been murdered. While the Nazis tried to keep “The Final Solution” secret, some Jews who had escaped the trains and the camps had made their way to Hungary with their dire warnings. But the Jews there found it hard to accept what they were hearing. As Wiesel described, “…the older people said, ‘We’ve been fed lies. The people of Goethe and Schiller cannot sink to barbarism.’”
Even when the Jews of Wiesel’s town Sighet were stripped of all rights, made to wear the yellow star, beaten, robbed, and herded into a ghetto, they did not fathom the fatal danger they faced. Wiesel wrote:
The truth is that some Jews in Sighet could have escaped the ghetto…. Maria – our old housekeeper, wonderful Maria who had worked for us since I was born—begged us to follow her to her home. She offered us her cabin in a remote hamlet. There would be room for all six of us, and Grandma Nissel as well. Seven in one cabin? Yes, she swore it, as Christ was her witness. She would take care of us, she would handle everything. We said no, politely but firmly.1
The Wiesel family, like all the Jews of the region, were deported to the death camps. His grandparents, parents, and younger sister were murdered there. Eli Wiesel survived to forever rue the escape road not taken.
Escape in the Middle of the Party
Another story, this one with a happy ending: A family of wealthy German Jews was under surveillance by the Gestapo. Nazi Jew-hatred was manifestly clear by that time. This family read the handwriting on the wall and wanted to flee, but a Gestapo car was parked across from their spacious home to prevent that.
For their son’s Bar Mitzvah, they threw a grand party. Hundreds of guests came in and out of the house. At some point during the party, the family, carrying nothing, mingled with the exiting guests and left. They walked to their automobile parked a few blocks away, already packed with a couple of suitcases. By the time anyone, including the servants, realized that the hosts were missing, the family had already crossed the border. They left behind their home, their expensive furniture, the Persian rugs, the precious artwork on the walls, and everything that did not fit into those two bags. But they escaped with their lives. They eventually made their way to America, and have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
If Jews don’t leave in the middle of the party, is it possible they won’t be able to leave at all?
When I heard this story from one grandchild years ago, during a spike in antisemitism in France, I wondered: If Jews don’t leave in the middle of the party, is it possible they won’t be able to leave at all?
The head of Hatzalah in the Ukraine, Shlomo Rosilio, explained on Wednesday night, hours before the invasion, that it’s hard for a family with children to pick up and leave. “They worry that some Ukrainian guy may come in and take whatever they have if they leave. They won’t have anything to come back to. So, no one wants to leave their home.”
Of course, if they knew that their very lives would be in danger, they would have boarded those busses before it was too late. Throughout Jewish history, there has been a fine, hard-to-determine line between danger and doom.
Denying a frightening reality is a basic human response—whether it’s a terminal diagnosis, an unfaithful spouse, or an imminent war. The drive to optimism, that it will all work out, can serve as a noble force that keeps us on our feet when we would otherwise be writhing on the floor in despair.
The Jews of the Ukraine held onto such hope rather than walking away from their homes, communities, and way of life. Who knows what we would have done if we were in their situation.
I am praying for the safety of the Jews of the Ukraine. And I continue to pray for their successful re-settlement here in Israel.
*The estimated number of Ukrainian Jews fluctuates between 40,000 and 200,000, which includes those with one Jewish grandparent, which makes them eligible for Israeli citizenship by the Law of Return.
Categories: Articole de interes general