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Kharkiv
My beloved uncle died because of the lack of medical help
Victoria Simson, athlete
Victoria in the cellar
My friend called at 5 am on the 24th: “Shelling!” I said: ‘“Oh come on, it can’t be!” But then I went out to the balcony and saw people starting to leave.

A metal door was blasted off by an aviation strike and landed on my foldout bed

My mother died in 2019, and I lived with my bedridden uncle and took care of him. Our new construction apartment building emptied out really fast; there were maybe 15 people remaining. On the first day I did not quite realize the severity of the situation. I ran down to the basement and then rushed back to feed my uncle. He had a catheter after two hospital stays. It was really scary: the doctors could not come to us, and he started developing bed sores.

Residential building in Northern Saltovka, Kharkiv after shelling on March 3, 2022
The evacuation of Victoria and her uncle
People left every day and they left behind food: that made me feel terrible. The apartment windows were blasted out; there was no heating; the wall was torn up by a blast wave, and in the basement where I slept the metal door was blasted off by an aviation strike and landed on my foldout bed, which was empty, fortunately.

There was constant shelling, but it was impossible to carry my uncle down to the basement, so I ran up to him three times a day. I made liquid meals in a blender, but he needed a special medical-level mix that nobody delivered, since we ended up in the epicenter of it all.

They were shooting from machine guns; they were shooting from tanks… When the shelling caught me in the apartment, I hid between load-bearing walls. By that point there were maybe five of us left out of approximately 300 residents. My uncle’s condition was worsening; he recovered from pneumonia just a short while before this.

We got medications once after a two week wait, and they were not enough. They brought a urinary catheter, but it was impossible to switch it out. No doctor wanted to come to us, even the ones from the Red Cross. In the end, that lack of medical help was my uncle’s cause of death.

I called every organization and left evacuation requests… In the end, we got evacuated through a “Jewish” organization and took us to Poland in an ambulance car. However, the refused to pick us up from home, as it was too dangerous, but luckily volunteers brought us to Hospital #4, and the ambulance waited for us there. All of this was under shelling. There were corpses lying on the road, and one was with their leg torn off; there were shot out cars… I just ducked down in the end, as it was so scary.

We escaped by some miracle and were on the road for almost 24 hours, with no stops.

We made it to Warsaw too late…

In Poland we were met by the representatives of the Jewish Agency, and my uncle was immediately taken by the local ambulance, but it was too late, sadly. He had fluid in his lungs, and he died in the hospital five days later. He was buried in Warsaw, in the Jewish cemetery. My uncle was like a father to me, the last person I felt close to…

Volunteers brought us to Hospital #4, and the ambulance waited for us there. All of this was under shelling. There were corpses lying on the road, and one was with their leg torn off; there were shot out cars… I just ducked down in the end, as it was so scary
I had to make a choice between Israel and Germany, and I repatriated approximately 10 days after the funeral. I don’t regret it for a moment. I feel very comfortable in Israel. I was welcomed with open arms; I like Hebrew; I am looking for a part-time job, but language first!

I really wish the war ended and I could live in Israel without any qualms, knowing that I can fly to Ukraine. Even if I came back for a week, that would give enough memories for a year. I was born there; I grew up there. It’s where I went to school and hung out with my friends.

There are lots of immigrants from Russia in my ulpan, but I don’t hate them. After all, they did not participate in this nightmare and it made them leave the country. But people who are currently hiding from shelling in Ukraine have a right to that hatred.

Instead of a postscriptum

It has been a year since my uncle died. There was a ceremony in Poland. They put up a memorial with a sign in Ukrainian and a Ukrainian flag, per my request. Jonny Daniels foundation took care of all the expenses.

I graduated from Ulpan Bet and work a little bit. I am only now beginning to come out of the stress and shock caused by the war.

I miss Ukraine incredibly and will definitely come for a visit, but all in due course. I live in Akko and have found many friends. Sometimes I feel like I know everyone here: the city is pretty small. In short, Israel is smiling at me, and I smile in return.

The grave of Leonid Teslenko, Victoria's uncle
The testimony was chronicled on April 27, 2022

Translation: Dr. Mariya Gyendina