Lana Balaban

Ukrainian refugee fights to remain in Israel despite threat of deportation

Lana Balaban, a Ukrainian war refugee, faces threat of deportation to Romania rather than receiving a welcome and a safe haven upon arrival to Israel. tells Ynet of her fears of every knock on her hotel room door

Lana Balaban |
Updated: 03.15.22, 23:30
Ukrainian war refugee Lana Balaban thought she found refuge in Israel after fleeing her home in Duniezk, a home she says was destroyed and no longer exists.
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  • "I've been crying for three weeks, ever since everything began in Ukraine, in my house in Donetsk and up until now, in this hotel room," she says.
    Speaking to Ynet Balaban recounts her harrowing story and her concerns for her immediate future.
    " I want everything to end, I want to go home and I can't go back. Everyday I cry about the life I left behind. I worked at a hotel, I had a good life, I lived with my daughter, who is now with her father in Poland, where he lives. I thought that because of my connection to Israel - I was married to an Israeli in the past and lived here when I escaped the war in Crimea - I would be welcomed here. But that's not what happened," she says.
    "I'm hurting over what's happening to us here, I'm hurting over the kids and people who died in Ukraine, a country that I would have never left if there wasn't a war, she says.
    " But I escaped, with one bag on my back. Without knowing when I'd return. Putin is our Hitler, I want him to die because he's inhumane. I only want him to stop this war, and even though I no longer have a house there, I dream of returning to Ukraine, maybe I'd rent an apartment, because here... its not home."
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    12.3 וולונובאחה אוקראינה משאיות חיילים רכבים פרו רוסים שיירה צבא מלחמה באירופה משבר פלישה רוסיה
    12.3 וולונובאחה אוקראינה משאיות חיילים רכבים פרו רוסים שיירה צבא מלחמה באירופה משבר פלישה רוסיה
    Russian troops in Ukraine
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "They destroyed my town, my house was shelled while I was in the shelter for seven straight days. I saw it before I left, at least what was left of it, a few bricks in flames with all of my life inside of them," she says.
    "I was in shock, nothing can prepare you for this. I took a small bag with some medicine and documents."
    The ruins in Balaban's home town
    (Photography: Reuters)
    Blaban says that since she left her home, she has been wearing almost the same clothes.
    "I came through to Poland with them, and then on to Romania, and from there I came here," she says.
    In Israel, in a hotel where I was transferred to, a day after arriving on Thursday, I received two shirts, socks, and pajamas. I don't have much, and I'm frustrated that they aren't giving us donations, but what's most important is that I'm alive and I'm thankful for that," she says.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    בית חולים שנהרס בוולונובאחה
    בית חולים שנהרס בוולונובאחה
    A Hospital in Donetsk after it was hit by Russian fire
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "For two days I was on my way to Poland, I sat on the floor of the bus.
    She says she spent her last 600 Euros to buy an airline ticket to Israel.
    "I thought I would be provided with shelter and asylum until the war ends, she says. "Now they want to deport me back to Romania, a country in which I have nothing, no family, no friends, and no language."
    Since arriving to the hotel on Friday, Balaban asked to see a doctor to help her deal with the stress she was under.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    הפליטים שמגיעים למלון דן פנורמה בת"א
    הפליטים שמגיעים למלון דן פנורמה בת"א
    Refugees from Ukraine arrive at a Tel Aviv hotel
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    "I started feeling chest pains two days ago when the police came to my room with handcuffs," she says.
    "In the beginning they told me to drink a glass of water and relax. Only yesterday, an IDF representative came and I was allowed to see a doctor."
    "Life here isn't easy, I'm in prison. Today, after two days that we were each enclosed in our own rooms, we were allowed to wander between the rooms, but not to leave our floor. We have a guard on our floor that makes sure we don't leave the rooms," Balaban says.
    "Every day police and other people come here and tell us we must get on a plane. I'm refusing, like everybody else, she says.
    "I am scared each time I hear a knock on the door. I'm traumatized, I sleep in my clothes because I'm afraid I'll be forced to leave in the middle of the night. I don't know what to do if they knock in the middle of the night again.
    Her memories of Israel and its people did not prepare her for the treatment she had received since her arrival.
    "Do all the Israelis think the Ukrainians came here to work? This isn't the case. I lived here for four years, I know Israelis, I thought I knew Jews to be the best people in the world. But what's happening here isn't okay, we aren't animals, we're people," she says.
    Ukrainian refugees at the Ben Gurion airport
    "What does it matter if we're Jewish or not? In moments like these people need to be loyal to their friends. Don't get me wrong, there are people that help...They're always stressed here, Its not just that I'm told what to do and when," she says.
    "Two days ago a friend showed me something on her phone, straight away they asked me what I was looking at. What am I, a thief? A murderer? This isn't a way to talk to people. I still haven't been told why I'm not being released. All I wanted was a safe haven until the end of the war. Not this," Balaban says.
    First published: 23:26, 03.15.22
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