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Putin has no idea who he is dealing with!
Olga Mazurenko, Teacher, Jewish kindergarten
Photo courtesy of Olga Mazurenko
For me, this story began in December 2021, when my ex-husband called from Israel.
We have a 22-year-old daughter and a little granddaughter. He said at that point
“Take the baby and leave Immediately: the war is coming in two weeks!” “What are you
talking about!” I snapped.

Two weeks passed, and the war did not start. I yelled at him, saying that he just created
a panic for no reason. By February 16th, some Israeli nationals had left, but I hoped that things would work out.

My father recounts how he escaped Sevastopol under Nazi shelling when he was four years old

My normal day starts at 5 in the morning. I need to change Mom’s adult diapers, walk the dogs and get on the 6:45 bus to Anatevka, where our early childhood center/school is located.

On the 24th of February 2022, my day started as usual, except for a popping sound. Didn’t give it much thought. At 5:30, however, there were several muffled pops, and I realized that these were explosions. Outside of my window I saw how front doors of neighboring buildings began to open, and people piled out with bags and suitcases, quickly got into their cars and drove away. I texted a friend, asking what was happening and he replied: “Olya, it has begun...” (sobs). The school bus driver called and advised me to get out of Kyiv as soon as possible.

I went out into the hallway, where the neighbors were talking about an “essentials” suitcase. I packed a large bag: my mother's medications, blood sugar monitor, blood pressure monitor, etc.

I live with my parents; my father is 85 years old, and my mother is 86. My mother is practically immobile: everyday a home attendant would replace me when I left for work to help care for my mother who needed constant care on account of her diabetes, pacemaker, and Alzheimer's disease.

This is how we lived in the hallway during the first days of the war
Photo courtesy of Olga Mazurenko
On the first day, we heard a siren, but we couldn’t go down to the basement: my mother would not have managed it… I sealed the windows with adhesive tape; the neighbors gave us a cot, which we set in the hallway. I piled blankets there, moved my mother, my father, took the dogs out, and we spent the night sitting in the hallway. My father kept retelling the story of how he escaped Sevastopol under Nazi shelling when he was just four years old. “Now”, he says, “I'm 85, and we’re being bombed all over again”.

The first few days all my efforts went to providing my parents with food and medicine. The lines were out of control. Where could I get a supply of insulin? On February 25th we were supposed to go to for a check-up to The Heart Institute, where Mom had a pacemaker installed. I called: the appointment was canceled. I panicked because her arteries are completely blocked. And if, God forbid, something happens to this pacemaker, then what?

I kept thinking, a couple more days and it would all be over. Like in a dream, when you close your eyes, then open them and all is well. It was very scary on the third or fourth day: fragments of a rocket fell near our Druzhby Narodov metro station. There was a great crash and even the windows trembled… And you don't even know what to expect next. Nothing prepared me for this… Mom remained in the hallway on the cot, and dad slept in the room: I just covered the windows with the mattress.

I remember burying my dog by our apartment building with the sirens wailing and sounds of explosions

I endlessly followed all the chats on social media: I really wanted to get some sort of confirmation that all this would soon be over. How is it that my parents, who evacuated as children from the Nazis 80 years ago, deserved this chaos caused by the “Rasshists” bombing? From the “ elder brother”, who decided in his delusional fantasies that we need to be saved from something.

I understood that my parents needed to be evacuated, but I also understood that given the condition my mother was in, she would simply not survive this move. Therefore, I decided to wait and what would be, would be. But then the month of Adar began, the month of miracles, and multiple people began sending me information about possible evacuation options.

My son-in-law brought the dog’s body back home, and I remember how I, together with him and our building super, dug a grave while bombs exploded and sirens wailed
A couple of days later, a friend from the Brodsky synagogue wrote to me: “Olya, you need to call this number asap: they evacuate the bedridden. Say you’ve been referred by such and such. You know how it can be in the Jewish world.” They did agree to evacuate my mother, but my father would have to travel separately with the dogs.

We had two 11-year-old dogs. One gnawed her paw and it became infected and On March 4, my son-in-law took her to the veterinarian to see what could be done. The doctor said “Amputation or euthanasia!” I understood what amputating a paw meant under these conditions - no access to antibiotics and complete uncertainty... So… My son-in-law brought the dog’s body back home, and I remember how I, together with him and our building super, dug a grave while bombs exploded and sirens wailed. At that moment it didn’t really matter how well we covered the grave. Then I imagined that it was not the dog, but my parents who needed help, and that was an extremely scary thought.

By that time, my daughter and granddaughter had already flown to Israel. After Shabbat, my friend called saying that Rabbi Bleich asked about my family and promised to resolve issues with evacuation. On Sunday, March 13, a call from Israel informed me that they would l evacuate us all at once.

Kyiv after shelling
Photo courtesy of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine
These are the reclining seats in the bus. There's my mom and another girl lying down with cerebral palsy.

Photo courtesy of Olga Mazurenko
On Monday morning a car picked us up and took us to the synagogue on Shchekavitskaya Street. We got to Odessa, spent the night there, and moved to the border with Moldova. There was a problem at the “Starokazachie” checkpoint where we were informed that only the evacuees would be able to cross the border, but not the drivers. They said we had to make arrangements for another bus to pick us up from the Moldovan side and we were to cross the border by foot. Most passengers would be able to do this but not my mother and not a 26-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. As a result, we went to another crossing, Palanka. We waited there almost until midnight, and just as we were beginning to get hysterical, three buses drove up, and the Moldovan border guards helped to carry those who were not able to walk to those buses. This is how, on a freight bus, seated on blankets, we made it to Chisinau.

Moldovan solidarity

In Moldova, we were put up in a small hotel, a block from the synagogue, I am eternally grateful to its volunteers. The next day, the doctors came to check on my mother and said that any medical assistance would be provided if required, including hospitalization.

Another memory. Most of the meals we were given consisted of pasta and Mom, being diabetic was not allowed these foods. There was no place to cook for her, so I went to the supermarket to buy instant buckwheat kasha to mix with hot water. So, during this trip to the supermarket I got lost. An older woman came up to me and asked if I needed help. I explained that I am not a local, from Kyiv… and she began: “Damn Putin, damn this war!” She said that her sister from Tyumen (Russia) claims that Russians only “work” on military targets and that civilians do not suffer. This woman went on to say that she tried to convince her sister in Russia of different facts, "You should come here, look at these children, and the women - they came naked, barefoot, they left everything and ran, escaping from death." She then continued talking to me: “All this will end, and I know that it will end, and when Ukraine wins - I will send all my retirement pension for restoration”. The woman then proceeds to take money out of her wallet - “buy what you need for your mother.” I politely refused, telling her that I have, thank God, a Ukrainian card. “No”, she says, “take it, because no one knows - I live in the center of Chisinau, and what if I have to run away from here with one bag. If Ukraine doesn't stop them, we can be next.” And it's true, they have Transnistria up next to them.

On the one hand, you feel like a beggar, on the other hand, you feel that this person is ready to share with you wholeheartedly. God sends such people. There are many miracles that we can call a coincidence, and yet.

And they took care of our dog: Sonya Sotnik helped to get the vet papers, vaccinations, contacted the veterinarian, called and paid for a taxi. The veterinarian examined and chipped the dog, but after several days, the 11-year-old dog began to cough; he had a weak heart. I called Sonya again who arranged for a cardiology veterinarian right away even on the doctor’s day off, and the woman came specially just to see my dog.

Putin has no idea who he is dealing with. Even if he occupies the entire territory, he will be hunted out of each corner by everyone, Russians, Ukrainians, and Jews, everyone who lives on that land.
People who defend their home cannot be defeated

We were repatriated to Israel by United Hatzalah. On March 27 they took us directly from the hotel to the airport. Someone brought wheelchairs and carried the luggage. A person whose name is Uri personally accompanied us from passport control and beyond. A special car was brought to help load the four passengers on wheelchairs. Our case managers, Aaron and Akiva, flew with us. “Ladies, do not be afraid, we are flying with you, everything will be okay, we'll get everything done." I felt supported and relieved.

In Israel, we have already rented an apartment and documents are being processed.

Putin has no idea who he is dealing with. Even if he occupies the entire territory, he will be hunted out of each corner by everyone, Russians, Ukrainians, and Jews, everyone who lives on that land. Of this I am absolutely sure. It may not happen as quickly as we would like. But the motivation of those who protect their home is different from those who came to take it away.

The testimony was chronicled on March 30, 2022

Translation: Dr. Victoria Barsky