Three Israeli rescue organizations joined forces to rescue Ukrainian Holocaust survivors and other civilians wounded amid Russia’s invasion and bring them to Israel for treatment.
Zaka, Hatzolah Air, and Magen David Adom raised some US$ 70,000 to charter a private jet with medical equipment to treat and evacuate the wounded waiting in Moldova, Channel 13 News reported Thursday.
The flight had been due to leave early Wednesday but was delayed for seven hours as they awaited permission to land in Chișinău. They finally received permission and made it back to Israel with the 13 patients early Thursday morning.
“It’s a crazy paradox, we are going there with a luxury jet to find people who have lost everything, that we are taking from destroyed homes,” Haim Otomazgin, head of special operations at Zaka, told Channel 13.
Many of those evacuated were Holocaust survivors who needed medical treatment that was no longer available in Ukraine, including a woman with dementia, and another who had previously lost both of her legs.
Among them was 85-year-old Maya Zernova.
“I was 5 years old when the (Second World) War started, all I can remember is pain,” she said.
“They want to free us in Ukraine from the Nazis, but that’s how you liberate? By murdering people? Making them homeless?” Zernova said, referring to the Russian claim that they invaded to “denazify” Ukraine.
“What else can I say,” she added. “Murderers.”
Her daughter, Irina, who was accompanying her, said she was so grateful to Israel and the rescue groups.
“Only Israel comes and rescues people from all over the world,” she said.
The evacuees also included younger people who had been injured in the fighting.
Katya Chekhova, 30, was the most seriously wounded among them with gunshot and shrapnel wounds to her leg.
After the Russians invaded, she was on her way to a shelter when she was hit by gunfire. “My home was burned, there is nothing left,” she said.
She had been operated on in a field hospital near the northern city of Chernihiv, which was unsuccessful, and her leg has an infection that is spreading.
Still, after arriving in Israel she expressed some optimism as ambulances dispersed them among several hospitals for treatment.
“I feel like I am at home,” said Chekhova after landing. “I’m sure that here they will help me be able to walk again, and maybe I won’t want to go back to Ukraine.”