ORT evacuates families from Zaporizhzhia and Odessa, secures safe accommodation in Western Ukraine


By Marcus Dysch | Special to the JT

As attacks across Ukraine continue, ORT has launched an ambitious mission to evacuate students, teachers and their families from some of the worst-affected areas.

Families took lengthy bus journeys to be evacuated to Western Ukraine, where they could work and study in safety. (Courtesy of World ORT)

To date, 153 people have been successfully relocated from Zaporizhzhia and Odessa, both home to ORT schools, to new accommodations in Western Ukraine.

Zaporizhzhia is less than 15 kilometers from the front line. Similarly, in Odessa, students and their families remain in constant danger. While many thousands of ORT students have left their home cities in the past eight months, many have stayed and are seeking shelter.

Agency supporters, including The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, which has built a partnership with Odessa to address humanitarian and Jewish community-building efforts for nearly 20 years, have helped ensure the continuation of providing for the most pressing needs in Ukraine.

Chief executive of ORT Ukraine Mila Finkelshtein said “the evacuations were very difficult, as in addition to students and teachers, family members included elderly grandparents and babies. The trip from Zaporizhzhia took almost 20 hours by bus. We have given people the chance to sleep at night, to study, to work.”

Under the guidance of our leadership in Ukraine, suitable accommodations have been secured in a hotel in Truskavets, a town close to Lviv and the Polish border.
The hotel provides security and comes with guaranteed heating — a critical commodity as winter approaches. Children are able to study there and parents can work remotely if their jobs allow. The group, around 90% of whom are from Zaporizhzhia, will remain until the end of the year. More were hoped to join those leaving, but parents who are medics had to remain in the cities to help treat the injured.

Daria traveled to Truskavets from Odessa with her baby and her son, a sixth-grade ORT student.

“The situation in our city has started to worsen; the bombings became more frequent,” she said. “My husband has lost his job and I am on maternity leave, so we agreed to evacuate and now we are here.”

She continued, noting that “we had a very warm welcome. The children have amazing conditions to study here. Parents were also provided with all the necessities for a peaceful life; we have meals and live in very good conditions. It is warm in the rooms; we have everything we need. We are very happy to be here and thank everyone who contributed to this effort and helped us.”

One mother from Zaporizhzhia said “we are endlessly grateful to ORT for this evacuation, for allowing the children to sleep peacefully, to smile, to run around. Now in Truskavets children can continue their studies with ORT. We are very thankful and very happy that ORT provided us with this opportunity.”

With missile attacks intensifying in recent weeks, educational institutions across Ukraine have been forced to either close or switch to online learning. Most ORT schools in the country are currently studying remotely.

As the situation worsens, communication with ORT colleagues in Ukraine has become more difficult. The winter is likely to be a long, challenging time for them with huge uncertainties around most aspects of daily life, with the most critical being sufficient and reliable electricity and heating.

Marcus Dysch is head of external affairs for World ORT at its headquarters in London.

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