Prince Charles today met Ukrainian refugees and the World Jewish Relief staff who helped them to safety.
Touring WJR’s Golders Green offices, he thanked the charity’s employees, telling them: “What a difference has been made.”
Examining a map of Ukraine, the Prince, the WJR patron, expressed concern for those still trapped, before meeting two Jewish families with Ukrainian relatives who had fled to Britain.
“To the day I die, I will never forget the sound of missiles,” said one refugee, who requested anonymity because she one day hopes to return but fears “the KGB”.
Deeply reluctant to leave her home in Odessa, the woman had initially refused to evacuate. WJR provided food parcels and social care but she eventually accepted she had to leave because of her health.
Her British cousin called WJR chief executive Paul Anticoni for help on a Sunday night. By Wednesday, she was on a bus to Moldova.
After travelling across Europe, she made it to the UK as her family’s “Purim gift”, arriving to a warm welcome on the day of the festival, her cousin told the JC.
Prince Charles told her he is praying for the end of the war, the refugee describing him as “a righteous gentile”.
Asked about the pain of leaving, a refugee who had fled Kharkiv with her elderly mother said: “It’s difficult to explain, difficult to remember.
“We left the place where our parents took us to school. We had to make the decision to leave everything behind. The first challenge is that the brain refuses to know why you have to leave home.”
A further challenge was having to accept that the Russian people they had believed to be their “brothers and sisters” were destroying their country.
The woman from Odessa confided that the worst thing about fleeing was that she would not be able to lay flowers on her parents’ graves this year.
However, the graveyard had since been bombed, her cousin added.
Mr Anticoni said that having the support of the Prince was invaluable “on so many levels.
“He is a very good friend of the Jewish community. He is not just a face, he wants to be updated.”
Prince Charles was instrumental in initiating the Jewish community centre set up in Krakow in 2008 by WJR, which now doubles as a Ukrainian refugee hub, he explained.
The charity is helping refugees irrespective of religion and working with partners on the ground in Ukraine to deliver aid.
Speaking to the Prince via video link, the leader of WJR’s partner programme in Kiev gave an overview of its work.
The twin priorities were to help those suffering under occupation and bombing and to provide aid to those still on the frontline, he said.
But despite the liberation of many areas from Russian control, the situation was worsening.