Odessa Jews Pen Emergency Evacuation Plan as Ukraine Crisis Escalates

Odessa Jews Pen Emergency Evacuation Plan as Ukraine Crisis Escalates

As Friday’s anniversary commemorating the 70th anniversary of Soviet Russia’s victory over Germany in WWII fast approaches, the escalating violent clashes between Ukraine and pro-Russian forces has Odessa’s approximately 30,000 Jews on edge.

Recently, Victory Girls reported on the distribution of leaflets demanding that Donetsk’s Jews register themselves and everything they own with the city’s pro-Russian separatists, warning of swift consequences if they didn’t. While pro-Russian forces in Ukraine now deny the leaflets came from them, Ukraine’s prime minister has vowed to hunt down the culprits. Nevertheless, Odessa has a long history of anti-Semitism and rising nationalism, and the Jewish population, many of whom have already fled to Israel or are planning to, is taking no chances. Though no specific threat against the Jewish population has been reported to date—several of the wounded from last Friday’s clashes happened to be Jews—the Jewish community has penned out an emergency evacuation plan should the unrest continue to increase and compel them to take action.

“‘The next weekend is going to be very violent,’ Rabbi Refael Kruskal, the head of the Tikva organization, believes.

‘When there is shooting in the streets, the first plan is to take [the children] out of the center of the city,’ said Rabbi Kruskal. ‘If it gets worse, then we’ll take them out of the city. We have plans to take them both out of the city and even to a different country if necessary, plans which we prefer not to talk about which we have in place.’

Rabbi Avraham Wolf, representing the Chabad hassidic community, said they are taking extra security measures, such as posting armed guards, and are prepared for a possible evacuation. Together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, they have prepared a fleet of 70 buses, fueled and ready to go.”

Map of Ukraine.
Map of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, as Kiev continues its offensive to reassert its control over separatist areas in eastern Ukraine where heavily armed pro-Russian rebels have proclaimed a “People’s Republic of Donetsk,” The Bear keeps growling. This time, though the Jewish community has asserted it does not feel currently imperiled since the fighting is presently hundreds of kilometers away, Vladimir Putin is pouring on a further excuse for his invasion of a sovereign nation as Savior of the Repressed Jews.

“Moscow accused Kiev of threatening peace in the region on Monday, and called on the international community to intensify efforts to end what it believes is an extremist show of ‘racism, xenophobia, ethnic intolerance, [and] the glorification of the Nazis’ in the east of Ukraine.”

As if invading, annexing, and instigating the continued killing of the citizens of a significant portion of a sovereign nation is somehow “peaceful.”

Still, the Jewish community in Odessa is right to prepare itself. Coupled with the attempted assassination of a Jewish politician, the defacement of Holocaust memorials and Jewish graves, and two synagogues reportedly firebombed in late April by as-of-yet unnamed persons, the Jewish community is rightly concerned. While it’s likely that the several random acts of what feels like fabricated targeting of Jews in Ukraine is designed to mimic hatred and resentment, thus providing yet another convenient excuse for Russia to continue its trumped-up occupation, the Jewish community is wise to cover all its bases. Odessa has a long, detailed history of pogroms against Jews. Having a detailed plan for emergency evacuation is an historic lesson well learned, albeit at a very heavy price.

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  • VALman says:

    Words fail . . .

    BABI YAR – A Document in the Form of a Novel by A. Anatoli (Kuznetsov)

    Kuznetsov commented on the Babi Yar tragedy (note “the city” he refers to is Kiev):
    “Before September 29, 1941, Jews were slowly being murdered in camps behind a veneer of legitimacy. Treblinka, Auschwitz, etc. came later. Since Babyn Yar murder became commonplace. I trust you know how they did this. They published an order for all the Jews in the city to gather in the vicinity of the freight yard with their belongings and valuables. Then they surrounded them and began shooting them. Countless Russians, Ukrainians, and other people, who had come to see their relatives and friends “off to the train,” died in the swarm. They didn’t shoot children but buried them alive, and didn’t finish off the wounded. The fresh earth over the mass graves was alive with movement. In the two years that followed, Russians, Ukrainians, Gypsies, and people of all nationalities were executed in Babyn Yar. The belief that Babyn Yar is an exclusively Jewish grave is wrong, and Yevtushenko portrayed only one aspect of Babyn Yar in his poem. It is an international grave. Nobody will ever determine how many and what nationalities are buried there, because 90% of the corpses were burned, their ashes scattered in ravines and fields.”

    The Einsatzgruppen [(Special Task Forces) were mobile killing units that operated in German-occupied Europe.]: Babi Yar

    “We Remember Babi Yar!”

    • Jodi Giddings says:

      Thank you for the links, VALman. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this. But I fear Mr. Putin is behind the random attacks, and will do and say whatever it takes to envelop the whole of the country, you know, for their own protection.

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