Photo Credit: United Hatzalah
Ya'ara helping a refugee family at the Moldova border.

By first-responder Ya’ara

Last week, while I was stationed in Kishinev, I met a family of refugees who had fled from Ukraine. They were among hundreds of families I interacted with that day who were fleeing the fighting in the war-torn country. But I felt that their story in particular characterized for me what’s happening now as the war continues and more and more families are forced to leave their homes.

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Many of these people’s homes were destroyed, like this family’s, while others fled out of fear that they would be the next victims of a missile attack and they didn’t want to take the chance of staying and the danger that this presented any longer.

As an Israeli, I believe understand the refugees better than most people and that I am more empathetic to them because of the continued threat of rockets that plagues my country. This is especially true in the southern parts of the country, where missiles are more common. Living under these conditions of constant fear and stress affects a person emotionally and mentally.

Ya’ara helping an older man at the Palanca border crossing. / United Hatzalah

The family that we met on the border consisted of parents who came with their daughter and son, and their beloved cat. Their home had been demolished by a bomb whose shrapnel dispersed everywhere causing severe damage. They were spared miraculously because they had taken shelter in an internal room before the explosion. But the house was completely destroyed. The family fled for the border and met United Hatzalah volunteers on their way. These volunteers invited them to come along with them to Kishinev, where United Hatzalah had set up humanitarian aid stations and a field hospital that provides medical care for refugees. The father was exhausted from the long cross-country drive. One of the volunteers at the border took over the driving, realizing it was dangerous to let the man drive in his current state.

The next day, I traveled to where they were staying to give them emotional support as a therapist. I am part of the organization’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit which specializes in providing emotional and psychological stabilization at the scene of medical emergencies and other traumatic incidents to those suffering from acute medical trauma. I took a few other volunteers along to see if anyone else needed help, and for backup.

When I approached the father he refused to speak with me, insisting everything was okay and he didn’t need any help. The grandson was also traumatized and refused to speak with me, hiding inside the whole time. I spoke with the mother and helped her figure out some ways to try to help the boy feel more comfortable and relaxed. We brought them food, supplies, medicine, vitamins, whatever they needed.

Ya’ara escorting an older refugee after she had just crossed the border into Moldova. / United Hatzalah

Later, while we were waiting for the taxi to pick us up, the daughter came over to us with a worried expression on her face. We asked her if everything was alright, and she said that her father wasn’t feeling good, contrary to what he had told us a few minutes ago. The daughter wanted to let us know that she was going to bring him to the hospital. We offered to treat him there instead since we were all trained EMTs. It didn’t make sense to take him to the hospital, and anyway, we didn’t think it was a good idea for her to leave her troubled son at a time like this because it could make him even more anxious.

The father was extremely tense and stressed and wasn’t willing to cooperate, but after a few minutes, we finally convinced him to come with us to our field hospital to get checked out. Once we finished his exam, which showed that he was healthy, a volunteer in the psychotrauma unit named Lital spoke with him to relieve his stress. After their session, I was happy to see that he exited upright and even agreed to come back again. I was ecstatic that we succeeded in gaining his trust because, after all, we are here to help him and his family.

I can’t comprehend what these people have gone through, the enormous hardships of leaving their home after watching it being destroyed. They are currently living on the border with nothing and no idea what tomorrow holds. They still don’t feel completely safe and comfortable, and they are understandably stressed and scared. I can’t solve all of their problems, but I am confident that the help I gave them eased their pain as they continue the process of starting over.

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