A camp for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. (Photo/Instagram-IsraAid)
A camp for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. (Photo/Instagram-IsraAid)

Manny’s and JFCS fundraiser brings in $275,000 for Ukrainian refugees

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“People don’t know where they’re going to be the next day or how much food they’re going to have,” said Hagit Krakov of Israel-based humanitarian aid nonprofit IsraAid, speaking live from the Moldovan border with Ukraine. “People are coming in with one bag.”

Krakov was speaking to a group of 200 who joined a call on March 7 sponsored by Manny’s café in San Francisco and S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services. It was an update on the condition of refugees from Ukraine, as well as a fundraiser to help support them.

“One hundred percent of this money is going directly to humanitarian relief on the ground, as it should,” said Manny Yekutiel, the café’s owner. “That’s where it’s going. It’s going to organizations like IsraAid, to people like Hagit who are doing this work on the ground so amazingly.”

JFCS confirmed to J. on Monday that the event had raised $275,000 thus far.

Krakov described a chaotic situation at the border, where uncertainty and bad weather are making things worse.

“It’s extremely cold here, extremely wet,” she said. “We have infrastructure there, so people can come in and receive some food, some consultation, some referral mechanisms of understanding where they can turn.”

She said IsraAid is providing medical and psychiatric emergency care for the refugees at the border, as well as in government-run shelters around the Moldovan capital of Chișinău.

“The feeling of insecurity, the trauma that they’ve been through just coming into the border, leaving their homes, leaving their husbands, their brothers and their fathers, is very much felt,” she said.

Most of the refugees are women and children, as men between 18 and 60 are required to stay in the country to defend it.

“We’ve seen a lot of the children in great distress, post-traumatic distress, still not knowing where their father is or when they’ll see him,” Krakov said.

The number of Ukrainians fleeing the war reached 1.5 million on March 6, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Krakov said 200,000 refugees had passed through Moldova, a small country of under 3 million and among the poorest in Europe; about half that number were still in the country. While their immediate needs include food, shelter and help navigating next steps, she said, one cannot underestimate how hard the changes have been mentally and emotionally.

“From a refugee perspective, he wasn’t a refugee yesterday,” she said. “They had their home. They had their kindergartens. They had their schools.”

With the wave of immigrants still in full flow, Krakov said Moldova will need long-term assistance, over the next one to three years, including money, infrastructure and expertise on giving the refugees continued support of the kind that IsraAid is providing.

“We have to focus on how we provide immediate response, but also how we make sure that in the long term, there’s a proper response and mechanisms in place to support this for as long as it takes,” she said.

Aaron Tartakovsky, whose father immigrated from Odessa, Ukraine, co-hosted the event. The San Francisco resident encouraged people to also think into the future about how they might be able to help refugees who make it to the Bay Area.

“I guarantee you,” he said, “there will be opportunities to volunteer locally to help resettle these immigrants, these refugees, who are going to be coming most likely to our shores in the coming weeks and months.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.