Last Thursday, a unique incident took place at the Palanca border crossing between Ukraine and Moldova. As part of United Hatzalah’s humanitarian mission in Moldova, a forward team of volunteers regularly head out to the Palanca border to assist refugees by providing them with medical care and humanitarian aid. Many of these refugees make their way inward to the capital city of Moldova, Kishinev.
Chezy Rosenbaum, a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah who has been leading the border missions for the past two weeks, together with other volunteers, witnessed his teammates successfully bringing across the border a Ukrainian man in his early 30s. Most Ukrainian men are required to stay inside Ukraine to help fight in the war effort, but a few are given exemptions under special circumstances.
The group of volunteers was assisting refugees at the crossing as usual when a family asked them to head to the Ukrainian side of the border. The team received permission from a reluctant Moldovan police officer, who initially didn’t want the volunteers to go across. But after they insisted the matter was a humanitarian emergency, the border guard, who had gotten to know the team well over the past few weeks, allowed them to cross.
A man on the Ukrainian side of the border called out to the rescue team in Hebrew begging them for help. When the volunteers came closer to the long line of refugees waiting to cross the border, the man explained that his name was Danny and that he had fled the warzone with his wife and two daughters. His family had been permitted to cross into Moldova, but he was being denied permission to cross over as well. He explained that his wife was very afraid to continue without him and was threatening to return to Ukraine and encounter potential danger if he couldn’t join them.
The Moldovan police officer told the volunteers sternly that they couldn’t stop and had to continue moving. The volunteers shouted back to Danny that they would try and help.
Once the team crossed into Ukraine, the police officer returned to Moldova and the quick-thinking volunteers came up with a plan to help Danny.
Two women from the United Hatzalah group, Omer Hod and Miri Shvimmer, approached the Ukrainian officers stationed at the border and began to chat with them. The women spoke in Russian and English and told the soldiers some jokes. A few minutes later, the soldiers’ mood lightened and they were now laughing with the United Hatzalah volunteers. Omer asked the guards if Danny, who was “their friend from Israel,” could come across with them into Moldova. The soldiers looked at the women and said, “He’s with you? Of course, he can cross the border.”
And just like that Danny was able to join his wife and young daughter in Moldova.
Chezy spoke about how shocked he had been at what the women had just pulled off. “In a few short minutes, Omer and Miri saved this man’s life, and likely the lives of his family, too. It was amazing to behold,” he recalled.
The volunteers came across Danny a few times at the main base of operations in Kishinev at the Agudath Yisroel synagogue run by Rabbi Pinchas Saltzman. Each time Danny saw them, he smiled and thanked them profusely for helping save his life and keeping his family together.
Among the few possessions that Danny had managed to bring with him was his military beret. He proudly showed it to the volunteers and explained that he had served in the Border Guard in Israel when he was younger.
Danny defended the lives of Israeli men, women, and children during his time in Israel and now two quick-thinking female volunteers from United Hatzalah had the opportunity to save Danny and his family.
Omer Hod, Miri Shvimmer, and Chezy Rosenbaum are United Hatzalah volunteers who have been stationed in Moldova for the past two weeks as part of Operation Orange Wings.