A new life

Aug 30, 2022

I am forty years old and I am starting a new life. Thank you, Israel, and thanks to Yad L’ Ami who has helped our family!

For the last seven years, I’ve been working for Radio Liberty as a producer of human rights programs and as the editor-in-chief of the economic sector on the website. Before that, I worked at the television channel Dozhd, where I covered live the Maidan protests in 2013; then I worked in other media but, one after the other, all of them were shut down in Russia because of the political situation. Over the past two years in Russia, it has become more and more dangerous to work in the opposition media, but I continued to live and work in Moscow. This was especially so since in 2019 my husband and I decided that we would try to make Aliyah. Both my husband and I are the grandchildren of Jews, so making Aliyah took a little longer than for those raised in Jewish homes. But we were in no hurry; we wanted to do it in a careful way because we have two children, now aged 12 and 13, and we wanted to prepare them gently for life in Israel and learning the Hebrew language.

We had a small but very comfortable apartment in Moscow; the children slept in the same room and the family barely fit in the kitchen, but it was our home and we loved it. A year before the war, Radio Liberty moved most of its staff out of Russia. I remained in Moscow, because the Russian service continued to work in Russia. During that year, almost all of my work colleagues’ homes were raided by the police; some were jailed for espionage, some received huge fines: working in Russia was already dangerous. On February 23, our dog was not feeling well and the veterinary clinic informed us that the dog urgently needed an operation. That night, we brought the bandaged and drowsy dog back home amid the news of the start of Putin’s war. My husband Misha was in shock; he lay awake all night and early in the morning it was clear that we had to leave Russia urgently. But we didn’t know how to proceed. We had already received approval from the Israeli consul to make Aliyah, and were awaiting the arrival of new passports into which Israeli visas would be stamped.

We called the Nativ office at the Israeli consulate but no one answered the phone. We reached the Jewish Agency but they said they could not help us, because we did not yet have visas in our passports. Air tickets to Israel would have cost at least $20,000, a sum of money of course we did not have, so we decided to travel by car to any country that would not require a visa. We chose Georgia as Kazakhstan was even farther away. The children returned home from school as usual and we told them we were leaving Russia immediately. Our children knew that they would probably have to leave at some point, but neither of them was ready to leave school, friends, belongings, and school books at a moment’s notice in the middle of the school year; they had to leave everything behind. We took warm clothes, bedding, and a computer. It is 3,000 kilometers from Moscow to Tbilisi on a difficult and bad road—mountains, snowfalls, and short winter days. After driving and sleeping in the car for almost three days, we stood in line for fifteen hours at the Georgian border. The dog was still recovering from surgery and was not feeling well; I took a lot of medicine with me and cleaned and bandaged the stitched wound area myself. Upon entering Georgia, we were relieved on the one hand but also found ourselves at a dead end. Our credit cards couldn’t be used there and we only had a small sum in cash in US dollars.

Due to a heavy snowfall that closed the roads for ten days, we ended up in the mountains in a modest, cozy guest house in the town of Stepantsminda. The Georgian hostess spoke Russian and was very kind to us. We had ten days to find an apartment in Georgia and a school for the children. We found that Georgians did not want to speak Russian over the phone. We discovered when searching on social networks that rental prices for apartments increased two- or threefold when the landlords saw that Russians were looking for an apartment. Time was running out and we had to use our cash reserves to rent an apartment for $1,500 that we would not have chosen in different circumstances. All the time we were in Tbilisi we kept looking for an opportunity to finalize the Aliyah process that we had started in Moscow. At first, nothing worked; we started to despair, our children did not go to school, it was hard to get anything done, the banks would not accept our credit cards, and we were told not to let our car with Russian license plates out of our sight, because it might be destroyed. Thanks to the fact that, as a professional, I ran several charity marathons for the Jewish Congress in Russia during the pandemic, my colleagues from the Jewish Congress helped me to locate my application number in the Moscow Nativ office, and that was the only way to get things moving. After four months in Georgia, the consul from Baku came and gave us our visas.

And then began an incredible adventure into a new life where we had nothing, but already had everything. It all started when an international fellowship of Christians and Jews helped us to buy our air tickets and move our belongings, driving us from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem. We stayed with my husband’s grandmother in her small apartment in Pisgat Zeev. Within a month we had almost all the paperwork done, our children were accepted into a boarding school, and we started looking for an apartment. We decided to remain in Jerusalem because we thought it was one of the most unique places in the world, and we had been given a chance to live here and raise our children. We found an apartment that we liked and used the money that the State of Israel gave us as new immigrants. We bought some furniture from the former tenants, but the apartment had no stove, oven, refrigerator, or washing machine. We lived for two weeks without a refrigerator, because we had no money to buy one.

And one day I met Ria; I read about her Yad L’Ami Foundation on her website and I was amazed that these people could do so much, but I had no idea how much! Ria came to our home and listened to our story with interest, asked questions, was very attentive, and you know what? Ria helped us and bought us everything we needed for a normal life: a gas stove, a refrigerator, and a washing machine! She made sure the professionals installed the appliances and that they were ready for use. Honestly, I never thought that I would find myself in need of help, it’s always so scary. But somehow it’s different in Israel, and as in the first months of my new life I have met such people as Ria with her small but very helpful foundation and have received such invaluable help, I can say with confidence that it’s not scary to start once again at the beginning. I am forty years old and I am starting a new life. Thank you, Israel, and thanks to Yad L’ Ami who has helped our family!