Some 20 Holocaust survivors rescued from war-torn Ukraine in a series of daring rescue operations arrived in Israel Wednesday, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Due to their advanced age, some required special assistance to leave their homes, while others had to be rescued from cities occupied by Russian forces, sometimes under incessant fire.
One such Holocaust Survivor is 90-year-old Ludmilla Kravchuk-Pavlograd, who hails from a small town near the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine.
"We escaped before the war came to us and I knew I wanted to come to Israel and be with my granddaughter and great-grandchildren who live here,” said Kravchuk-Pavlograd, who was merely a child when World War II broke out and the extermination of Europe’s Jewry began.
"I remember we traveled from Ukraine, the train that was traveling in front of us was bombed. My mother wanted to hide us inside a train and on the way, we saw body parts scattered. I will never forget this."
“I remember being hungry all the time. For me, the fact that I survived is my victory over the Nazis,” she said, adding that she decided to make Aliyah after her family in Israel pleaded with her to come as Russian forces encroached.
"We drove for more than a day and it was not easy, I didn’t feel very well, but I was not afraid anymore. I always said that everything would be fine and I will soon see the family in Israel."
Michael and Lenny Lehrman, both aged 82, arrived in Israel from devastated Kyiv.
"I very well remember the roaring of the cannons and the unbearable hunger after the war,” said Michael, who was forced to leave two of his children in Ukraine, due to a wartime law prohibiting able-bodied men from leaving the besieged country.
"Leaving home at such an age is very difficult. My children can not leave by law and I really worry about them. My father was killed in the war with the Nazis, I do not want to lose my children in this war.”
Another Holocaust survivor, 84-years-old Aharon Skamorovsky was rescued with his wife from Kyiv, but later died at the hospital in Chisinau, Moldova surrounded by his family. His body was brought on one of the rescue flights for burial in Israel.
Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, who welcomed the survivors upon their arrival, said: “Among the tens of thousands of new immigrants, hundreds of Holocaust survivors [arrived] in Israel.”
“We have a tremendous privilege to live among them, to hear the story of their lives and heroism first hand, and commemorate their painful testimonies for future generations.”
Dubi Weissenstern, chairman of the ZAKA community emergency response team, whose members were part of the rescue efforts, added: “The dozens of refugees brought to Israel were rescued from Ukraine in complex operations that we led and thanks to joining forces and cooperating with the organizations and foundations working alongside us."
Israel on Wednesday welcomed another rescue mission with Holocaust survivors fleeing the war-ravaged country on this symbolic date.