Arutz Sheva was on scene as no less than 275 new olim (Jewish immigrants) from Ukraine landed in Israel on Tuesday, as part of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ)’s eighth Freedom Flight.
Most of the new arrivals are refugees from the war-torn eastern section of Ukraine, and they were greeted by Bnai Akiva volunteers and IDF Border Patrol officers, as well as the Association of Ukrainian Immigrants in Israel.
One particular immigrant had a highly unusual story, which gives clear expression to the hardships being suffered by Jews in eastern Ukraine where the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian rebels continue to clash.
Alex Krugolov (41), who made aliyah with his wife Anna (35) and their two sons Daniel and Michael, fled Lugansk two weeks ago, where he had been working as a truck driver transporting humanitarian aid throughout the eastern part of the country.
Just under a year ago the home of Krugolov's parents was hit by a rocket, which wounded his sister as she tried to protect her one-year-old son. Another rocket hit their neighbor's home, killing two people.
Aside from transporting humanitarian goods, Krugolov also had to remove hundreds of dead bodies from the streets as part of his job.
"Being a driver I saw many dead people, many wounded. There was blood in the streets. I cannot tell you how many times I had just left a certain place and then seconds afterwards a bomb fell there."
The hardest part of his job was evacuating the dead, he said, noting: "one time, I had to put 137 corpses in trash bags. They were faceless, nameless, and we buried them in huge mass graves. The morgues were full to capacity. I lost 15 kilograms just from the stress of seeing such things. My sister (from the burns she suffered) became half a human-being. This is what life is like in Eastern Ukraine and no one can tell you any different."
The Krugolovs were welcomed at Ben-Gurion Airport by the Zvagorodenei family who came to Israel on IFCJ’s first Freedom Flight in December 2014.
"They set an example for us," the new immigrants said of their predecessors. "Things worked out for them relatively quickly. We also hope to start new – and better – lives here.”
Aside from the new immigrant benefits from the state, IFCJ provides each adult oleh from Ukraine with $1,000 and each child with $500 to help them restart their lives in Israel. The group also offers a special Klitah Fund to pay for medical expenses, food, clothing, summer camp for children and more.
"It’s important for us that all our olim from Ukraine make aliyah to Israel in the truest sense of the word to have an ‘ascent’ here both spiritually and economically," said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President and Founder of the IFCJ.
"Therefore we do everything in our power to successfully integrate them into Israeli society and to provide them what they as individuals need to begin their lives anew here in the Homeland.”
IFCJ has brought roughly 1,000 new olim from Ukraine since its Freedom Flights began last December.