Opinion: On their tedious, children of the ‘Green Forest’ orphanage, which was destroyed by Russian shelling, make a quick stop at Lviv’s railway station before continuing to Poland; these are images Jewish people are more than familiar with

As we were standing in the freezing cold among the tens of thousands of refugees that filled the halls of the central railway station at Lviv (as kids, we heard similar stories from our grandparents, who called the Ukrainian city “Lvov”), we felt commotion all around us. We were afraid. Afraid to lose the moment, and each other, so we kept documenting what we were witnessing, invoking memories of the past – the past of the Jewish people.

Just taking notes, whether it is in a notebook, a computer, or just pressing the camera button over and over would cause us to lose the sense of time.

רונן ברגמן שליח ידיעות אחרונות בלבוב בעקבות פלישת רוסיה לאוקראינה
Lviv railway station (Photo: Ziv Koren)


At -8 degrees Celsius (17.6 degrees Fahrenheit), inside this commotion, we also had to scribble notes on our hands. My colleague Ziv wrote: “Kharkiv – 100 children” and “Green Forest” – referring to the name of an orphanage in the war-torn city that was shelled by the Russians.

The writing on his hand sums up the whole grim story of those orphans, some of whom are newborns. Fate was cruel to them regardless of the war, and now, yet again, they are uprooted, with the threat of Russian bombs hovering over their tiny heads.

They arrive on a train to Lviv just to be examined by a group of women and board the next train to Poland. And Ziv, he just takes as many photos as he can, and writes the whole thing down on his hand so we won’t forget.

רונן ברגמן שליח ידיעות אחרונות בלבוב בעקבות פלישת רוסיה לאוקראינה
Newborns boarded on a train in Lviv (Photo: Ziv Koren)


I saw one of the children lose consciousness due to the tumultuous journey, his eyes were left half open, and he had an expressionless look on his face. A woman was carrying him in her arms while screaming for a doctor. I was left with the memory of the fainted child, and after the incident, every time we met other refugees, I was trying to hide from Ziv and our translator Oleg the tears that were filling my eyes again and again.

I have seen a lot of disasters, but this time, it hit me differently. Maybe it is because I see this disaster through the eyes of my wife Yana. She was born in Ukraine and left it behind along with many memories and friends. We were on a video call, and she suddenly recognized the central railway station I was at, from which she traveled many times to her grandmother.

She remembered precisely every platform and corridor. And maybe because when I was there, I saw familiar faces from the streets of Israel everywhere I looked, for one moment I could swear that I saw my grandmother’s face in one of the local elders.

רונן ברגמן שליח ידיעות אחרונות בלבוב בעקבות פלישת רוסיה לאוקראינה
Children at Lviv’s railway station (Photo: Ziv Koren)


But I think the tears that fill me are mostly tears of anger, seeing how Israel stands by and doesn’t do enough, surely less than others, to help. And while our help wouldn’t change the situation and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it, I wonder how could it be that we, the Jewish people – whose grandparents fled the Nazis through these exact forests, begged for help, and founded Israel from the wreckage of the European Jewish community – didn’t do more to help those orphans from the “Green Forest” orphanage in Kharkiv?

This is the first mass migration in which refugees travel with their domestic animals. Only those who have cats know how hard it is to keep a cat in a cage and travel thousands of miles with it, take care of its needs without it trying to escape or go completely insane. But even the cats, it seems, are quiet this time around. “But people and cats need to eat,” said one of Lviv’s chief volunteer center managers.

This city is the main gateway for refugees to flee from the worn-torn country, mostly to Poland. Some 2.5 million have already left the country, most of them through Lviv and its railway station. But Lviv is also the main corridor to deliver air to civilians and the army.

רונן ברגמן שליח ידיעות אחרונות בלבוב בעקבות פלישת רוסיה לאוקראינה
A Ukrainian woman with her pet cat (Photo: Ziv Koren)


It is a large and organized city, it is well-equipped, while also being far away from the ongoing battles. And it is probably left untouched due to the many foreign representatives and media crews that filled the city since the invasion, and made the Russians think twice before attempting to attack it. It is also close to the border with Poland, a country that helped more than any other by taking refugees and serving as an entry point into Ukraine.

“The Humanitarian Aid Center was established on the move,” said a local official who works in a senior position at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. With the embassy being evacuated to Lviv before the beginning of the invasion, the official, who asked to remain anonymous, requested to stay in Ukraine and joined the aid center. As of right now, the center has some 100 employees, who work from a large building in the center of Lviv, and they reroute the countless aid shipments and manage the supply lines in the country.

“We collect donations from different places to trucks that are ready to go to the border, to trucks that take the equipment from the border and on,” the official said. And they get everything: the clothing, food, medicine, toys, personal protective equipment, and huge amounts of animal food they pass on to refugees.

רונן ברגמן שליח ידיעות אחרונות בלבוב בעקבות פלישת רוסיה לאוקראינה
The cooking pots at the railway station in Lviv (Photo: Ziv Koren)


“We collect donations from different places, load it onto trucks that are ready to go to the border, and from there to vehicles that take the aid from the Polish border into Ukraine,” he said.

There is a huge international effort. “We weren’t just surprised by the amount of aid, we were shocked,” said Andrew Solim, head of the district in which Lviv is located. “We were sure that Poland and the rest of the European Union would close their borders, but the exact opposite has happened.”

Outside the central railway station, a long row of giant cooking pots was placed, and they were filled with warm tea and soup. And as the elderly woman, which earlier in a moment of fatigue and sadness I confused with my grandmother, takes a sip from the soup, she exclaims, “It’s a little too spicy”.

And this is exactly what my grandmother would have said in the same situation.

As reported by Ynetnews