More than 50 Russian-speaking Israeli female volunteers have been deployed across Europe to help Ukrainian families fleeing the war.
Dubbed “Angels”, they are greeting refugees and translating for them in railway stations in Poland, Hungary and Romania.
The volunteer scheme has been organised by the Conference of European Rabbis (CER). The women are there to help the largely female Ukrainian refugees communicate with local authorities, get medical help and find shelter.
Chagit Shalom grew up in Be’er Sheva. She is now working with refugees on the ground in Hungary.
She told the JC: “I give advice to these families, speaking to them in their mother tongue and helping them with paperwork and plans for the future.
“They are in a foreign country and don’t know what their next steps will be. Some of my friends are at the border and at railway stations in Eastern Europe helping the refugees as they come out of Ukraine.
“It’s tough to see all this, the families really need our help, but it’s very important work. I’m proud of it.”
Ms Shalom is currently living in a hotel with 11 other volunteers alongside the displaced Ukrainians.
She said: “We are providing for a lot of their needs. I look after the children, running sessions like Arts & Crafts.”
In the Hungarian capital Budapest, the Angels are running day camps and pastoral activities for Ukrainian children in an attempt to ease the burden on their families.
In March, the CER appointed Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich to coordinate aid for those fleeing Ukraine.
He said the Russian-speaking volunteers are helping refugees both when they first arrive in countries neighbouring Ukraine and in the hotels at which CER is housing them.
He said: “The tremendous work of these CER Angels is something of a heaven-sent for the fleeing Ukrainian refugees. These refugees have lost their home and are in foreign countries seeking safety and security. We are doing all we can to help them.
“Our Angels are providing them with practical advice and further easing the burdens of hundreds of families by bringing some joy into the refugee children’s lives.”
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than four million Ukrainians have fled their war-torn country in Europe’s largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.
The overwhelming majority of those have made for neighbouring Poland, which is hosting almost two and a half million, but Romania, Hungary and Moldova have also taken hundreds of thousands each.
More than ten thousand have made it to Israel, though only about a quarter are eligible for Israeli citizenship.