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Zachar's Story - "I have found freedom in Israel."

March/April 2020 WFJ Article

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19 Mar 2020
Zachar's Story - "I have found freedom in Israel."

Every week, Homecare climbs the stairs with a small bag of groceries to visit Zachar and supplement his meager cupboard. Since he is 94 and nearly blind due to a war injury, he carefully handles each item, which is the way he ‘sees’ these days. Afterwards, comes the most important part of the day for him: The cup of tea and a listening ear.

Zachar was born in the Ukraine and, along with many aging Russian immigrants, was part of what used to be called the “Unknown Holocaust”. Only with the fall of the Soviet Union did the stories of horror begin to emerge. Zachar’s story is one such story. 

As a teenager, Zachar was placed in a Ghetto in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, but somehow managed to escape. This was an area where most of the Jews were massacred and buried in mass graves in surrounding forests during 1941 and ‘42. However, he was eventually caught and by the end of 1943 Zachar found himself in a place of hell. The Pechora Concentration camp was set up in a former sanitarium for tuberculosis patients. The camp was packed with adults and children, and many died of starvation every day. Of the approximately 11,000 Jews crowded into the camp, only some 1,200 survived. Amazingly young Zachar was able to escape from this place as well. “I am not thankful for the suffering, but am very thankful to have survived it,” he told Homecare Nurse Corrie. He joined the Red Army along with 1.5 million Jewish soldiers to fight against Germany’s invasion. Zachar received many medals for his courage, including one of the highest orders. 

After the war he did not return to Ukraine, but instead lived near Moscow for the next 50 years, until finally coming to Israel with his beloved wife. Sadly, his wife died after 60 years of marriage and his two children and their families still live outside of Israel. He feels lonely, but he does not regret his Aliyah. “I have found freedom in Israel,” Zachar said. 

At the end of the visit, there is always the same request: "Come again soon, I am waiting for you."

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