Oksana Zolodyev and her son Artur spent last summer sleeping in a potato crate in their basement.
“We lived in a state of war, citizens being wounded on both sides,” Vyacheslav Zolodyev, Oksana’s husband, says of their home in Lugansk, Ukraine.
“There was no one to protect us. There was no electricity, water supply was minimal and limited. The telephones were off.” His 19-year-old daughter, Aleksandrina, moved to Israel alone to join the army. “Our girl in Israel was searching for us for two months, and we couldn’t get in contact with her,” he says.
The Zolodyevs knew they needed to leave but couldn’t afford it. As Lugansk crumbled around them, they longed to make a home in Israel.Reading was their only entertainment, and in the rare moments when the shooting outside died down, Vyacheslav crept through the dark city to find batteries for their lamps.
The Zolodyevs made the most of their situation. Oksana and Vyacheslav organized Artur’s 16th birthday party in the basement. “There was one hour of electricity,” says Oksana, smiling at the memory. “I quickly baked a cake and decorated it. We celebrat- ed in the basement, even took pictures.”
Eventually, it became too much to bear. The family decided to join Aleksandrina in Israel.
The journey wasn’t an easy one—Oksana recalls homes were destroyed before their eyes, tanks lined the roads threateningly, and the family was strip-searched repeatedly. The welcome in Israel was worth the long road.
“We were surprised to receive such a warm welcome from members of The Jewish Agency,” says Oksana. “We were very moved by the concern of total strangers.” The Zolodyevs were in touch with Federation-supported The Jewish Agency for Israel as they prepared to leave Ukraine. They didn’t realize The Jewish Agency would be organizing so many details, including living arrangements, education for Artur, Hebrew immersion for the family, and immigration benefits.
“Artur is calming down now from all of the horrors he has seen,” says Ziona Eisenstein, the Director of The Jewish Agency Absorp- tion Center assisting the Zolodyevs. “He’s dreamed of coming to Israel, but what he gets today is beyond his expectations. That’s what he tells me.”
Vyacheslav, Oksana, Artur, and Aleksan- drina are eternally grateful to The Jewish Agency for making their journey as painless as possible. “It’s a dream for a person from Lugansk to come to this place, to Israel. And not everyone is blessed with this opportunity. Only those who have the right to make aliyah,” says Oksana. She smiles.
“This is our home—our one and only home.”