Left: Marek arrives safely in Switzerland with the orphans from the Sunshine Children’s Center, right: Safe and sound after escaping Ukraine–one of the orphan girls Alisa cared for is now all grown and raising a family of her own
Maoz Israel Report March 2022

Stories from Ukraine

Marek

They piled the kids in the available vehicles and left. What should’ve been a six-hour drive to the border of Ukraine with Poland took 24 hours because of the masses of people fleeing.


Shani Ferguson
By Shani Ferguson
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Before Alisa immigrated to Israel (and eventually joined the Maoz Israel team) she lived in Ukraine. Alisa’s connection there with the Sunshine Children’s Center for orphans and PTSD kids (whose parents had lost custody rights) began with her volunteering at their summer camps. Though she was doing well in her job as an assistant producer for commercials, she preferred the hands-on work with children in the orphanage. She worked there for almost two years as a social worker before she could no longer resist the inner pull she felt to move to Israel—the land of her ancestors. 

It was a hard goodbye for her, and over the years Alisa kept in contact with the staff at the orphanage as well as the children she had cared for—some who were now legally adults and starting their own families. When the war broke out, the orphanage was one of the first places she called. “I knew firsthand that Marek doesn’t waste resources.” Marek (whose gifting is in helping children suffering from trauma), co-founded the orphanage over 20 years ago and now divides his time between the orphanage and fundraising for it abroad. By chance, he was out of the country when the bombings began and men of fighting age were forbidden from leaving Ukraine.  

The staff hid the kids in the orphanage basement while Marek worked out the details of how to get them out. They piled the kids in the available vehicles and left. What should’ve been a six-hour drive to the border of Ukraine with Poland took 24 hours because of the masses of people fleeing. In the end, however, they made it out and Marek was there on the other side of the border ready to take them to Switzerland where they would be safe. Marek then returned to the border to help the growing number of refugees—almost entirely made up of women and children. He continues to return to the border to guide refugees to safety and Maoz has already raised thousands of dollars to cover food and transportation costs to help his efforts. Now our focus turns to the staff who stayed behind at the orphanage to prepare for what is coming. As we all understand, by its nature, war always creates more orphans.

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