Londoner rescuing orphans from the horrors of war in Ukraine has criticized the British government for not doing enough to accommodate refugees, despite the UK’s relative wealth compared to Eastern Europe’s war-torn neighbors.
Jeremy Posen, 53, from north London, has helped rescue more than a thousand Ukrainians, including newborn babies and 270 orphans, from Odessa and get them across the border to Romania through his Tikva charity, which cares for vulnerable Jewish children in Ukraine .
“I think Europe as a whole has responded quite well to this sudden and colossal challenge. But the number of refugees is growing by the day and unfortunately the end of the war is not yet in sight.”
He said “heartbreaking” scenes at border crossings were reminiscent of early Eastern European evacuations at the outbreak of World War II.
He said: “We have spent many days and nights at border crossings that are sadly reminiscent of very dark times in our history.
“Families trudge across the border with only hand luggage, leaving their entire lives behind, heading for an entirely uncertain future.
“Very traumatized children, men of military age who say goodbye to their families with no idea if and when they will see them again, all this in the freezing cold and having fled for their lives the hours before.”
He said the full extent of the tragic invasion “has yet to sink in” among the local population.
“A woman we rescued from Kharkov, a mother of one of the children in our care, came to me distraught and showed me pictures of her badly damaged apartment.
“There was a gaping hole in a wall, windows flew out, furniture shredded and family photos were thrown on the floor, all as a result of bombing or shelling.
“She kept repeating, as if in a daze: ‘I have nothing left. Nothing. What should I do now?’
“Unfortunately, that applies to thousands of people.”
Posen, who moved to Ukraine from London a few years ago to run the three orphanages with his childhood friend Rafael Kruskal, said the scenes in Ukraine feel “a world away” from the British capital.
He praised ‘generous’ Britons after some 100,000 offered their homes to refugees in the government’s Homes for Ukraine program.
He added: “I think the response from the British public has been great, but I don’t feel the government is doing enough with this program and I’m not sure how practical the scheme really is.
“How long will refugees feel comfortable in someone else’s house, often without money, without a job and with an uncertain future?
“What will give them a sense of self and how will they practically survive what a long term stay can be.
“The response has been relatively slow, unlike the countries bordering Ukraine, and while Britain is generally a more prosperous country, those countries in the east seem to bear much more responsibility with not nearly the same resources. †
The government, which has been criticized for the speed of its response, said 10,200 visas were issued as part of the Ukrainian family settlement at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
According to preliminary data published on the website of the Ministry of Interior, a total of 31,500 applications have been submitted so far.
About 150,000 people have expressed an interest in hosting refugees through the Homes for Ukraine program.
“I am happy that we are supporting Ukraine in any way we can, be it military aid, humanitarian aid or providing a refuge for those fleeing Ukraine,” Mr Javid told LBC.
“I expect that we will see hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians arriving here in the UK and getting all the support they need.”
Posen said he had been working this week to restore his schools in Romania, where 270 de facto or ‘social’ orphans are being cared for by ‘an extremely dedicated’ team of carers, nannies, medical staff and psychologists.
“We have psychologists on site to help the children recover from the trauma they have suffered,” he explained.
“We will continue to evacuate anyone who asks for our help in Odessa and beyond, with Tikva sponsored buses leaving Odessa every day and taking people to Moldova, where they will receive the necessary help from a partner organization.”
CEO of Tikva Odessa in Ukraine, Refael Kruskal, added: “There was never any talk of splitting up our children. Since they were all refugees, they wanted to stay as a group. There was also never a question of who of the staff would cross over and who would stay. Tikva is about saving lives, and we have given up our personal lives to help these children. They are like ours. They are our family.”
Ukrainian officials accused Russian troops on Monday of shelling homes in a Black Sea port city.
Odessa City Council said no one was killed in the strike, which sparked a fire that was quickly extinguished by emergency services. It was the first attack on the city since the war began on February 24.
Click here to donate to Tikva Odessa.