January 2, 2009 / 6 Tevet 5769
What motivates a 21-year-old Jewish woman from Poland to volunteer as a first-aid responder in Israel's war-torn South? "I want to help people," says Dominika Borowska from Warsaw. "If I leave, and other volunteers leave, then who will be here to help?"
Dominika, a professional flutist and certified Red Cross first-aid responder, came to Israel at the beginning of December to participate in the Jewish Agency's Magen David Adom (MADA) Ambulance Volunteer Program. The two-month program gives young Jewish people from around the world the opportunity to train and volunteer as first-aid responders on ambulances.
When Dominika completed the advanced first responders course she was asked where she would like to serve. "I told them that I didn't care, so they placed me in Ashkelon," says Dominika. Her first month was incredible. She lived at the Jewish Agency's Calanit Absorption Center, and became friends with people from all over the world. The MADA staff accepted her as one of them.
Dominika (second from right) on night duty with the MADA ambulance crew.
When missiles started falling on Ashkelon Dominika could have chosen to leave. But she was determined to stay. "I know that it's dangerous," explains Dominika calmly. "But because of the danger I want to stay, because I know how important the work we are doing is. MADA is like my family, and I don't want to leave them or the people in Ashkelon in their time of need."
Dominika was on call and rushed with the ambulance crew to the scene of a missile attack where a man was killed and another was wounded by shrapnel. "It was an incredible feeling to take part in saving someone's life," says Dominika. She has also been on ambulances that responded to Kassam rocket attacks in Sderot.
"My mother and two sisters in Poland are worried about me," says Dominika. "But when I explained to them that I love it here, and how satisfied I am, they understood."
Dominika grew up in Warsaw and was in the first class of Warsaw's Jewish Day School. She learned Hebrew for six years and then went on to take private lessons. She participated in the Jewish Agency's youth group activities and always felt connected to Israel. She came to Israel for the first time in the summer of 2007 as a Kibbutz volunteer and knew that she would be back.
Dominika in action.
"Being in Israel is a miracle for me," says Dominika. "I dreamed about it for so long and I trust that everything will be O.K."
Dominika's mother, a journalist and translator, and her twin sister, a professional ballerina, have never been to Israel, although Dominika says that the family talks about eventually settling in their homeland. "My mother is always saying that Poland is stressful," says Dominika. "We would all like to make Israel our home one day. For me, there's no other place in the world."