Only a few days ago, Yuri Sohriansky arrived from the civil war now raging in central Ukraine. Originally from the city of Lugansk, Yuri now lives in the Beit Canada Absorption Center of Ashdod with his family: experiencing both the "Code Red" warning alarms alongside the warmth of the absorption center's staff.
The city of Lugansk in eastern Ukraine is governed, for the most part, by the separatist forces. "The situation in Lugansk, where I was born, is terrible: shots heard everywhere, lack of food, lack of medicine, and most importantly -- terrorism used against young people throughout the city by Chechen mercenaries," recalls Yuri Sohriansky, once he reached Beit Canada Absorption center in Ashdod.
Between the "Code Red" sirens, the deputy director of Harel absorption center says that Yuri, his wife and two children, came here from the field and went through the process of immigrant absorption. After some time, they will be able to leave the center and will receive a subsidy allowing them to rent an apartment and start their lives in Israel.
Yuri Sohriansky is dressed in a green sweater and looks very upset as he recalls the past few months. He says that when they left their homes in Lugansk, there was fighting ten kilometers from his home. "If I had a Ukrainian flag waving on the vehicle that led us to the airport, they would have killed us. Here, I see Israeli cars with Israeli flags, traveling safely. It seems surreal. "says Yuri.
Yuri’s story in his own words:
“Once the war began, the Israeli consul in Lugansk helped us leave Ukraine. We had passports, and soon we received assistance from The Jewish Agency and the organization "Ezra." They even escorted us to the plane which brought us to Israel. They secured us entirely, everything was very smooth and organized, and I thank The Jewish Agency and "Ezra" for helping us arrive in peace.
The houses across from ours in Lugansk were constantly under falling shells and rockets. Those that fire against Israel today are just like the Ukrainian separatists shooting at homes of civilians in Lugansk.
I wasn’t familiar with this kind of situation until the beginning of the war in Ukraine. I was a foreman in construction, my wife was a homemaker, and my son graduated cum laude with a degree in computer programing. My youngest daughter was receiving her education in a Lugansk school. Then the separatists came to our city and they evacuated the student dormitories. The Ukrainian separatists did as they pleased with all of us.
Everything requires a heavy measure of fortitude. One of our young neighbors was violently beaten by the separatists. His mother went to the local priest, once her son seemed to have disappeared, and prayed for his release. After a few days, he was thrown at the feet of his mother, in one of the separatists centers in the city, but his bones were broken and he was not able to rise from his place.
There, in Lugansk, it is truly the end of the world. There is no food, no medicine, everything is shut up. Roads are closed and in the nighttime there is in complete darkness. In the city, the separatist fighters roam.
From the few phone calls I receive, I have learned of those who have remained. Their lives are difficult, and the elderly sit at home constantly measuring their blood pressure. Those without passports cannot get out.
I had great luck that I had vacationed in Ashkelon a year ago, and had formed a connection to the land. When the war broke out, I knew I wanted to return to Ashkelon. I really hope that I will be able to support my family here with honor and dignity.”
The manager of the absorption center, Benny Harel, says that the immigrants came here “with green faces” but the center is “trying to support them every step of the way.”
In the midst of our interview of Yuri Sohriansky, we heard the “code red” alarm and he, like the other new immigrants, ran to the bomb shelter in the absorption center.