Ukrainian-born Natalia, Andrei and their sons Daniel and Alexander arrived in Israel in March, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced them to uproot their lives and effectively start over.
According to the family, leaving their besieged country and home-town of Odessa was not the only hurdle they were forced to overcome, as integrating into Israeli society has proven to be a challenge all on its own.
The family arrived in Israel with the help of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews NGO -- which offers humanitarian care and life-saving aid to Jews around the world.
After their arrival, the family embarked on a bureaucratic campaign to regulate their status as immigrants, which was fortunately expedited due to their special situation.
According to Andrei, after the bureaucracy, it was time to find a home for the family, a feat made all the more difficult because of Israel’s notoriously high cost of living.
"The search was difficult, if we did not get help we would probably have found ourselves in a more expensive apartment, which would have made our financial situation difficult,” he says. The family eventually found an affordable apartment in the city of Rehovot.
Despite the difficulty in locating an affordable home, the family says that it’s actually the language barrier that has proven to be the biggest difficulty, which has effectively stopped them from integrating fully into Israeli society.
"It is very difficult for us without Hebrew," Andrei says. "It is clear to us that without language it would be almost impossible to integrate here.“
He and Natalia, registered for Hebrew lessons provided by the Immigration and Absorption Ministry in order to better integrate into the Israeli workforce.
“We are currently concentrating our efforts on learning words ourselves until the course starts. We are also thinking about finding temporary jobs,” he says.
Another hardship the fleeing family had to overcome is the fact that they were forced to leave most of their worldly possessions in Ukraine, in order to escape the encroaching Russian forces in time.
"We left our entire lives in Ukraine, and we do not know if someday we will be able to go back to retrieve our belongings, Natalia says. "On our first night in Israel we did not even have beds or mattresses," she says adding that her family was able to make due thanks to donations and volunteers.
"It warms the heart to feel that there is someone who cares about us and helps us," she says, adding that while the family seldom forgets family and friends who remained in war-torn Ukraine, the move to Israel was the right decision for them.
"We love Israel," she says. "We have a sense of security, of calm and quiet. People here are always ready to help and it makes us feel good.”