Fear Grows For Jews Living In Russian-Occupied Ukraine

Illustrative. Anton Sevrukov, 47, toasts bread over fire in a makeshift stove in Kivsharivka, Ukraine, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. As temperatures drop below freezing in eastern Ukraine, those who haven't fled from the heavy fighting, regular shelling and months of Russian occupation are now on the threshold of a brutal winter and digging in for the cold months. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Many Jews from Ukrainian cities now in Russian-occupied areas are worried about their relatives who remained behind, JTA reported.

Many left behind elderly parents who could not or would not leave when their children did.

“We can’t talk about the war,” said Moshe, whose elderly mother is in Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine that has been occupied by the Russians since early in the war. “I don’t want to make things difficult for her. I think that people are listening in.”

Moshe is currently in Vinnytsia, a town in western Ukraine. “She doesn’t want to leave,” he adds. “It is not because the Russians are there now that she wants to stay. She wants to stay because it is her home.”

Moshe’s friend Igor also left behind his parents – in Berdyansk, a town currently occupied by Russian forces. “I speak to them when I can,” he said. “There isn’t always a signal.”

Igor added that according to his parents, the Russian occupation has become more oppressive over time. “If you are standing around smoking, they come up to you to check your documents and question you. They ask you what you are doing there and why you are hanging around. They come and ask you for money and if you don’t cooperate, they take your children and demand a ransom.”

“There are maybe around 100 Jews left in Berdyansk,” said Igor. “But they are only old people – all the young ones have left.”

JTA spoke to Jews from all four areas annexed by Russia but none of them with were willing to be interviewed under their full name due to fear of possible consequences. Disturbing evidence of torture and murder has been found in Russian-occupied areas that were reclaimed by Ukrainian forces.

Igor said that he doesn’t believe that Jewish identity in Russian-occupied areas has any effect. “Nationality doesn’t matter for the Russians. For them, these people are not people, they are animals.”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)