Ukrainian refugees celebrate Purim in Berlin, but fears of war linger

Hundreds attend Chabad party in German capital, including dozens of orphans from Odesa and young students, but some remain fearful for relatives back home

A boy dances to celebrate Purim at a party in a hotel in Berlin, Germany, March 7, 2023. (AP/Markus Schreiber)
A boy dances to celebrate Purim at a party in a hotel in Berlin, Germany, March 7, 2023. (AP/Markus Schreiber)

AP — Hundreds of refugees from Ukraine celebrated Purim in Berlin on Tuesday dressed in colorful costumes and dancing to loud Israeli music.

They danced, drank and ate together with hundreds of other members of the German capital’s Chabad community that organized the party in a hotel.

Many of the Ukrainian refugees at the Purim party were students and young children, among them dozens of orphans who fled from Odesa last year.

“A year ago these kids were sitting in the bunkers, rockets falling on them,” said Yehuda Teichtal, a Berlin rabbi and head of the local Chabad community who had helped their escape from the war in Ukraine.

“Now they’ve found a new home, are studying German, learn new skills, and also learn how to help themselves,” he added.

Teichtal, wearing huge orange sunglasses and a glittery silver cap, danced with some of the refugee children in circles as Israeli singer Ishay Lapidot performed popular Purim songs on stage.

The holiday of Purim marks the victory of Jews over a tyrant in ancient Persia and is traditionally celebrated with costumes and parties.

Two men dance to celebrate Purim at a hotel in Berlin, Germany, March 7, 2023. (AP/Markus Schreiber)

Germany has given shelter to more than 1 million Ukrainian refugees since their country was attacked by Russia over a year ago. Among them were thousands of Jews including some Holocaust survivors.

Around 80 Jewish Ukrainians who were taken in by the Chabad community recently returned to their hometown of Odesa, but hundreds of others remain in Berlin.

Among them are Gabriel Hrykoriev and Elisheva Tkachenko, a young married couple who fled to Berlin a year ago. They finished university in Odesa before the war started and decided to stay in Berlin to finish their German language degrees and then look for jobs.

Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, a Berlin rabbi and the head of the local Chabad community, dances with kids to celebrate Purim at a hotel in Berlin, Germany, March 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Still, even as they joined the Purim party, the war in Ukraine was always on their mind.

“We are talking to our parents on the phone every day,” said Tkachenko, whose family is from Kherson and whose parents decided to stay in Ukraine despite the war.

“Actually, I’m a bit sad today because I have to think of all the happy Purim celebrations when I was a child,” she added with a sad smile. “Back then our families were having so much fun together and there was no war.”

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