British Jewish charity saves 1,000 Ukrainian Jews

Tikva CFO Jeremy Posen organized 24 buses from Odessa to take families and 270 orphans to safety in Moldova.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a complex operation, Jewish British charity Tikva (Hebrew for ‘Hope’) has brought 1,000 Jews out of war-torn Ukraine, including 270 children from orphanages, The Jewish Chronicle (TheJC) reported.

CFO Jeremy Posen, a British father of 10 who, for the past three years, has lived in Ukraine during the weekdays and, until two months ago, gone home for Shabbat to be with his family, told the paper that although he wasn’t convinced that Russia would invade, he nevertheless started making evacuation plans in January.

“I thought: ‘OK, we’ll make sure we have food to last three months and reserves of cash, and if we don’t need it immediately, we can still use it over time.’ It was vital to have a plan,” Posen said.

Tikva has had a network of Jewish orphanages in the country for the last 30 years. Families — excluding men of fighting age who are not allowed to leave the country — orphans and group home staff started gathering in Odessa.

Posen hired 24 buses and four food trucks for an exorbitant sum for the mass escape, as the danger was very real towards the end of the first week of the war, which is when the convoy started out.

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“We could see shelling in the distance,” he told TheJC. “That first drive took more than 28 hours, and it was very hairy.”

The buses were constantly stopped at roadblocks, he said. “The police and soldiers were coming on to the buses to check everyone and their papers. With so many young kids, it was quite tense.”

Among the evacuees were babies as young as several weeks old as well as children with illnesses such as diabetes, who had to receive daily insulin injections.

Their first stop was in a “fantastic” place in the western part of the country where the refugees could rest and recover slightly from their ordeal, he said, declining to name the exact location.

While more than 200 were able to cross into neighboring Moldova quickly, the others had to wait due to such problems as having brought no passports, or outdated ones, in their rush to get out.

“Every night I spent making lists for the next day,” Posen said. “Every day I was trying to get them through. I’ve not had much sleep in days.”

After each group crossed the border, they were flown to Romania. Finally, on Wednesday, the last of those in Posen’s care reunited with the rest of the evacuees, and the organization flew in a doctor and two nurses as well as medical and other supplies to help them.

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Mission not yet complete

Posen’s job is not yet over, however, and he is staying at the western Ukrainian refuge.

“People have been joining us from all parts of Ukraine, on an almost hourly basis,” he said. “Vacant beds are being filled, and we will not rest or leave until every remaining person reaches safety.’

In a statement to the Daily Mail, Tikva said there are at least 200 more people whom Posen is going to try and get across the border in the coming days.

Refael Kruskal, CEO of Tikva Odessa in Ukraine, told the British paper, “Tikva is about saving lives, and we have given up our personal life to help these children. They are like our own. They are our family.”

The organization is thinking even bigger. In an emergency appeal, it wrote that “Tikva personnel are continuing to coordinate the evacuation of up to eight busloads daily of any Ukrainian citizens desperate to get out of Ukraine.”

Although some £1.5 million has been raised so far, the charity says that even caring for those already safe in Romania for any length of time will cost many times that amount.