My daughter should not share the fate of her Jewish ancestors

11/04/2022: The Jewish nurse Ilona fled with her daughter from Ukraine to Moldova, we tell her story here.

Ilona arrived in Tudora late at night. A few hundred inhabitants, a few Ladas and tractors at the roadside, no light behind the windows, no barking dogs. A stifling scene, even for her usually bright daughter. Then they had reached the house where they were to stay after their escape. "When I turned on the tap and ice-cold water ran over my hands, my panic turned into hysteria." In such situations, it is often banal moments like this that are enough of a trigger to make you lose your temper. Ilona is grateful for the house, the food, the safety and the friendly people around her. And yet it felt like the end of the world.

Before her escape, Ilona lived in Odessa and worked as a nurse. She is Jewish, some of her family members died in pogroms, most later in the Holocaust. "Just because my grandmother wasn't there during the big killing, that's the only reason I exist," Ilona says. "I want my daughter Biana to survive too, I don't want her to share the fate of her Jewish ancestors."

Ilona is a resolute woman. She didn't want to go far away, to be able to return to her hometown, her home, at any time. And so she ended up with her 18-year-old daughter at CONCORDIA in Tudora. When the first bombs fell in the Donbass, in Mariupol and around Kiev, the sun was shining on her first day in Moldova. And then she also discovered the boiler, which she only had to turn on the night before to have hot water. Five weeks ago now, but it feels like an eternity.

Her daughter is due to finish school, which is now online, in a few weeks, after which she wants to study medicine. For the time being, Ilona is sitting in one of our CONCORDIA social centres. Behind Ilona, Moldovan and Ukrainian children play "musical chairs", the winner gets an apple. Old women in smocks and headscarves spoon up soup.

Fear remains even in Moldova

What may sound like a good solution at first is not at all. Moldova is not an EU member, not a Nato member, neutral according to its constitution and one of the poorest countries in Europe. What if Vladimir Putin had the idea of letting his soldiers march even further than Odessa? Ilona and her daughter feel safe for the moment. But Tudora is in the south of Moldova, on the border with Ukraine.

Ilona prefers to be safe now, she says. Who knows if she and her daughter will have to move on? Israel would be a possibility, or Germany, where an uncle lives and the Jewish communities are growing again.

60 facilities where the need is greatest

CONCORDIA has been active in Moldova for a long time. We have 60 facilities throughout the country, offering day care centres for children, homes for the elderly, soup kitchens, mobile social assistance, residential groups, foster families and day centres.

Since the beginning of the war, we have been able to free up dozens of beds for refugees. In addition, we support local host families who have taken in Ukrainians with food. Most of them live in very modest conditions themselves and need our support.

Read all about our help for Ukrainian refugees here.


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