At multiple border crossings, the first thing one sees when leaving Ukraine and entering Poland is an extraordinary image: an Israeli flag waving proudly. Each one is planted next to a transit centre staffed by the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), funded by Jewish Federations of Canada (JFC) and Jews worldwide. Every day, their teams greet a sea of women, children, and elderly fleeing Ukraine, painfully separated from sons, husbands, and fathers required to remain in the country. For the thousands of Jews escaping the terror of war, the flag is a beacon of safety no less than the border itself.
For most who are arriving, it was the life-saving support of the Jewish Agency and JDC—from food and supplies to evacuation—that enabled them to make it to the border. Amid desperate conditions, the organizations are continuing to serve as a lifeline for the tens of thousands of Jews who remain in Ukraine.
Once arriving at a transit centre, the needs of refugees are triaged. Food, water, and medical and psychological support is provided as they await the next step in their journey: a bus trip to accommodations secured by the Jewish Agency and JDC in Poland’s cities. While supporting Jewish refugees, no one is turned away from help at the transit centres—an example of the impact of the Jewish people beyond our community.
For Jews seeking to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel), the Jewish Agency guides them through the process—from documentation to mass air lifts to eventual resettlement in Israel. More than 7,000 have already been processed for Aliyah, with tens of thousands expected to come in a growing wave from Ukraine. Tens of thousands more are likely to make Aliyah from Russia as the country slips deeper into political instability, economic ruin, and isolation.
Many of us have family roots from Poland and Ukraine. Could our ancestors have ever imagined a world in which the flag of a sovereign Jewish state would be flown on the soil of Eastern Europe as a symbol of rescue? That the Jewish people could send airplanes to bring Jewish refugees from the edge of a warzone to a secure and thriving Israel?