My dad often called me his little Ukrainian girl. Apparently, I looked just like his entire family and his village. I couldn’t wait to put those stories to the test when I traveled from my home in metro Detroit to visit his hometown of Berehove, Ukraine, in 2012.
Crossing the border from Hungary to Ukraine led to another opportunity for my dad to show off his little girl and how I fit right into this Eastern European region.
Across the border, it was a celebration of joyous hospitality, home cooked meals, warm conversations. My weekend in Berehove was pure peace.
The small town streets were quiet on those sunny summer days, but the air was alive with lush backyard gardens, fruit falling off trees, flowers bursting over fences and the smell of fried dumplings wafting into courtyards.
In one weekend, I think I met every resident of Berehove, this sliver of tranquility nestled at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains near the Hungarian border.
Distant friends treated us like family that had never left the old country. Now I’m searching for ways to reconnect with them and their country during such a devastating time.
My dad passed away in 2019. He was 65. Part of me is grateful that he doesn’t have to witness this unnecessary war. He was an army medic in both the former Soviet Union and in Israel. If cancer hadn’t taken him first, he would be back in Berehove nursing refugees to health and safety.
Without my dad’s passion for his people and critical language skills, I’ve had to seek out the helpers in my own community and in his.
And there are so many helpers. That border I crossed between Hungary and Ukraine is currently welcoming refugees — offering food, shelter and work wherever possible, just like so many border towns in Poland and Romania. Organizations like JDC have ushered thousands of Jewish families to safety. This brings me great peace as the granddaughter of an entire generation of Holocaust survivors.
The large population of elderly Jews in Ukraine includes nearly 10,000 Holocaust survivors. No one should have to experience this kind of pain, loss and devastation twice in their lives.
This little Ukrainian daddy’s girl in America is yearning for peace and tranquility, for safety and security. For those clear blue skies and bright yellow sunflower fields to shine, just like their country’s flag.
Thank you to the people of Ukraine, my family, and to the helpers.