פליטים אזרחים אוקראינים חוצים את הגבול להונגריה משבר מלחמה אוקראינה רוסיה
Civilian refugees trying to reach safety across the border
Photo: Getty Images
Israel's envoy team members

Israel's envoys in Ukraine vow 'no Israeli will be left behind'

Team of Israeli embassy staff in Ukraine has been working around the clock at the Polish border to rescue as many Israel's nationals as possible since Russia's invasion; 'Ukraine was an amazing country, I can't believe I'm referring to it in past tense,' one embassy staffer says

Zeev Avrahami |
Published: 02.28.22, 14:05
In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week, over 400,000 people have already fled the country. Among those still left behind are a few thousand Israeli nationals.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • To help those stranded, Israel's embassy teams in Ukraine, Warsaw and Berlin have set up shop at Hotel Accademia in the city of Przemyśl, just 10 minutes from the Polish-Ukrainian border, and they have been working around the clock ever since to rescue as many Israelis as possible.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    קובי ראש ויונתן קוטנוב
    קובי ראש ויונתן קוטנוב
    Israel's envoy team members
    (Photo: Zeev Avrahami)
    "You are the only country that goes in and brings back its citizens, the only one that has representatives here 24 hours a day," one of the officers told me in the Polish section of the Ukrainian border crossing. "This is unbelievable. I hope my country will take care of me like this, too."
    Exhausted from a lack of sleep, they still answer one phone call after another, sending messages non-stop, sending photos, following and getting reports, using social media and everything at their disposal to fish the Israeli refugees out of war-torn state.
    On Sunday evening, the envoy team managed to rescue seven Israelis, although the Ukrainian authorities insisted on detaining the men in the country for questioning, and allowed only women and children to cross the border. "We drove with our diplomatic vehicle, and we started to pull them out of the crowd," said a security member of the Israeli team.
    "Each time we pull someone across the border, it takes some two hours, including the paperwork. It was done under the nose of Ukrainian refugees who kept waiting in line to cross the border," he said.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    פליטים אזרחים אוקראינים חוצים את הגבול להונגריה משבר מלחמה אוקראינה רוסיה
    פליטים אזרחים אוקראינים חוצים את הגבול להונגריה משבר מלחמה אוקראינה רוסיה
    Ukrainian refugees trying to reach safety across the border
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    "We issued a travel warning and asked Israeli civilians to evacuate before the invasion," said Alex Ben-Ari, the embassy spokesperson in Kiyv. Her partner and their children evacuated, along with 4,500 other Israelis out of some 15,000 living in Ukraine.
    "There are many college students here, Chabad and Breslov members, as well as businessmen and tech people. Ukraine was an amazing country," she said. "I can't believe I'm referring to it in past tense."
    "Most of the Israelis who didn't leave Ukraine before the invasion are now calling and complaining why we are not coming to rescue them," said Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky. As a result, now Brodsky and his personnel are working around the clock in freezing cold, as they wait for Israelis to arrive at the border passage."
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    פליטים אוקראינים בפולין
    פליטים אוקראינים בפולין
    Ukrainian refugees in Poland
    (Photo: EPA )
    The consul of the embassy in Kyiv, Lilach Atias, said some rescue efforts are easier than other. "We encountered a 50-year-old man who walked for three days, a man who waited 30 hours, families without food and water, a mother who just gave birth and had a Caesarean section. Our representatives go inside and pull them out [across the border], sometimes we laterally carry them in our hands, since they are so exhausted.
    "We don't have any food, we eat only snacks, and we haven't slept for 38 hours," said an Israeli embassy security worker from a neighboring country who came to assist. "We take a nap next to the guard at the border crossing, and continue to work, all while it is minus six degrees Celsius outside.
    "On Sunday, the border crossing at the Polish city of Krakow was breached, and thousands of people marched in. There were riots and gunshots, and we just went in to rescue as many as possible, with or without Israeli passports. We have a transit car, and there are families with 17 members, so we told them 'it's either you or the suitcases.' They left the luggage, all squeezed into the car, and drove away.
    "We also rescued a young Israeli who collapsed after he injected himself with too much insulin just to get here," the embassy security worker said.
    Talkbacks for this article 0