Es happened in February and March in the streets near Kyiv Central Station. Ija Rudsyzka, born in 1930, had seen war break out in her hometown and had heard the sirens before. Back when the Germans came, when the planes with the black cross flew over Kyiv in 1941. Now that Ms. Rudsyzka is 92, she has experienced it all over again. This time the planes with the red star, which the Russian army inherited from the Soviet, came and threw their deadly cargo. Back when she was a child, her father grabbed her and dragged her onto an eastbound evacuation bus in time. This time her son urged her to evacuate west. “No,” says Ija Rudsyzka resolutely, “I absolutely didn’t want to leave. I was attached to everything I had.”
So they stayed in Kyiv for three more weeks, Ija and her son Artur Rudsyzkyj. Ms. Rudsyzka lived alone in her block of flats, “My neighbors and I have been here for sixty years, now in this war we helped each other out with food, volunteers distributed bread, so we wanted to hold on to each other.” Once the city was shelled their windows. She heard gunfire several times at night; she suspects that Russian sabotage squads had penetrated the city center. In the morning Ukrainian soldiers were lying dead on the asphalt. The fate of the capital and thus of the whole country hung by a thread at the beginning of the war. One day the Israeli embassy called; Rudsyzka was on a list there as a Holocaust survivor. “Tomorrow at 12 noon a bus will come to the synagogue,” it said. It was the Brodskyj synagogue in central Kiev, where her grandfather had once been a rabbi. It was the last bus.
So Ija Rudsyzka, who hadn’t left her apartment for four years, began a journey in this war that was to take about two thousand kilometers and hasn’t ended to this day. “These Panzerigel, anti-tank barriers, like the ones I remembered from that war, were everywhere in the city,” she says. At the synagogue: Helpers with submachine guns secured the area, Ukrainians who had become soldiers overnight. The bus with forty or fifty people, Jews and non-Jews, drove off, escorted by the police. The journey took eighteen hours, “and the whole time I was just thinking: When can you go home?” Eventually, the bus reached the Republic of Moldova.
First a sports hall, mattress camp. Then a room, thanks to a helpful hotel owner. A few days later another bus ride, this time 48 hours long, to Lithuania. “I didn’t eat or drink anything so I didn’t have to go to the toilet.” The waiting time at the Romanian-Hungarian border, where the Schengen zone begins, lasted seven hours. After all, a Facebook acquaintance from Vilnius had reported, a Lithuanian interested in Jewish culture. He accommodated the two war refugees in his deceased mother’s room. They stayed there for two months. It was particularly painful to remember that the Jewish community did not respond to their request for help. “Even Jewish communities in Germany were dismissive,” says Artur Rudsyzkyj. “One replied: “We don’t help with individual cases. Come, you’ll find a room, then we’ll see.”
Before the Germans, the family fled to Central Asia
A sign of hope came from a Jewish foundation in Poland in May. Again Ija Rudsyzka and her son got on a bus. In Warsaw they got a room in a refugee camp. Then, in autumn, a friendly offer of rooms from Kraków, with a view of the Wawel, the old royal castle.
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