As Ukraine descends into a humanitarian nightmare, Chabad-Lubavitch across the beleaguered nation is working day and night to evacuate the most vulnerable community members. In Zhitomir, which is currently suffering continued shelling, according to Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, director of Chabad of Zhitomir, who has stayed behind with his community, Chabad’s Alumim orphanage has finally made it across the border into Romania.

The 140-strong Zhitomir group, made up of children and the Chabad emissaries accompanying them is led by Malka Bukiet, Alumim’s director. Just hours ago, she brought her charges to safety on the Romanian side of the border. They still have a long journey ahead of them, Rabbi Dovber Orgad, co-director of Chabad of Cluj-Napoca (Klausenburg), Romania, more than 200 miles southwest of the Ukrainian border, tells Chabad.org. “They’ve just left the border,” he reports. “They’ll be arriving here at about 3 a.m. We have 50 rooms prepared for them at the city’s finest hotel.” Orgad and his wife, Fraidy, will be working all night to prepare food and everything the refugees will need. “We’ll help them in every way possible until they can move on,” he says. The plan is to fly the group to Israel, but that may take time. This is just the beginning of a long journey, Orgad says.

Before speaking to Chabad.org, Orgad got a call from Odessa, where Chabad emissaries are trying to evacuate the city’s Chabad-run orphanage as well. Orgad says there’s no space in the city for the 250 refugees from Odessa, and he’s working on locating a suitable resort-type accommodation in the countryside.

The massive humanitarian effort is being funded by concerned people from around the world, who have been contributing to Chabad-Lubavitch of Ukraine via Chabad.org’s Ukraine Jewish Relief Fund, as well as local community members in the affected areas. Orgad says that the accommodation for the Zhitomir group was secured by a community member who worked to obtain a special rate for the children.

From Dnipro, a group of 85, including 35 young yeshivah students, evacuated the war-torn country to Moldova. Their first leg of a more than 24-hour journey was by train to Odessa. It took the entire night. In Odessa they were joined by 25 local Jews, and together they made it over the Moldovan border.

From Dnipro, a group of 85, including 35 yeshivah students, evacuated the war-torn country to Moldova. Their first leg of a more than 24-hour journey was by train to Odessa. It took the entire night. In Odessa they were joined by 25 local Jews, and together they made it over the Moldovan border. (Credit: Idkunei Chabad)
From Dnipro, a group of 85, including 35 yeshivah students, evacuated the war-torn country to Moldova. Their first leg of a more than 24-hour journey was by train to Odessa. It took the entire night. In Odessa they were joined by 25 local Jews, and together they made it over the Moldovan border. (Credit: Idkunei Chabad)

The yeshivah students are continuing on to Dusseldorf, Germany, where they will continue their studies for the time being, while the adults of the convoy seek to fly to Israel. Speaking to Chabad.org from Dusseldorf, Rabbi Chaim Barkahn, co-director of the Rohr Chabad Lubavitch Center Dusseldorf with his wife, Dvora, said he was working on setting up accommodations for the yeshivah boys. “It’s really busy, I’m with the hotel manager now,” he said when Chabad.org reached him.

Additional convoys are making their way from Kiev, with 140 people, and Chabad has secured 300 seats on a train from Dnipro to Lvov in western Ukraine.

In Zhitomir, Wilhelm has one worry off his chest. “All the children are over the border. It’s a miracle.”

The Ukraine Jewish Relief Fundhas been established to help provide assistance to the Jewish communities in Ukraine impacted by the war.

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