Jerusalem (Dagbladet): Early in the morning on October 7, the unmistakable sound of aircraft warnings rang out over large parts of Israel.
Several thousand rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. The rocket tsunami set off an intense Hamas offensive, which killed more than 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 230 people.
For Ukrainian refugee Danylo Tantjura, 20, the siren call was all too familiar: When Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year, Tantjura fled the million-dollar city of Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine. The country, to Israel.
After the attack on Israel, he fled again to Ukraine and Kharkiv.
– In Ukraine, missiles can arrive suddenly, but if there is a plane alarm, you look for a bomb shelter and then things usually go well. In Israel you can suddenly be exposed to terrorism in the streets, and I worry more about that, Tantjura tells Dagbladet.
He escaped the siege
For months after Vladimir Putin’s relentless war machine launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, was under siege.
The city of millions was subjected to relentless air attacks, and fierce fighting raged outside the city, which is located a few miles south of the Ukrainian-Russian border.
Tantjora, along with her disabled mother and father, fled Kharkiv last spring. First to Rivne, in western Ukraine, and eventually to Poland and Germany.
“At first we were in Poland for a few weeks, before we went to Germany, but we didn’t feel at home there, so we returned to Poland,” says Tantjura over the phone from Kharkiv to Dagbladet.
There, we met by chance a person working at the Israeli embassy in Warsaw, who advised me to travel to Israel, he says.
In theory, anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent can obtain Israeli citizenship. In Tantjura’s case, his late grandfather was Jewish.
– When I first applied for citizenship, the process went very quickly. On August 12, I got my passport and was able to travel to Israel, says Dagbladet.
He traveled alone, and was sent first to the city of Nahariya in northern Israel, not far from the border with Lebanon. There he spent time in language courses, before eventually ending up in Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Over time, he moved to Holon, south of Tel Aviv, but the Ukrainian never settled in Israel.
– It was…, Tanjura says, and takes a break.
He adds: – …complicated.
I visited a psychiatrist
For the first time in his life, the 20-year-old felt depressed. He was in a foreign country without family and close friends, and was struggling to fit in – as well as in working life.
-I managed to learn Hebrew, but I didn’t get any good friends or any suitable job. “I was completely alone,” Tantjora says.
Ultimately, the Ukrainian was referred to a psychiatrist.
– I know this is normal, and of course you should ask for help when you need it, but for me it was a shock. I never thought I would need psychological help, he tells Dagbladet.
When Hamas attacked Israel on Saturday, October 7 and the subsequent war broke out, Tantjura could not take it any longer.
A week later, he boarded a flight out of Israel, and on November 1, the 20-year-old returned to Kharkiv.
– Safer in Ukraine
In the fall of 2022, Ukrainian forces were able to recapture the entire Kharkiv region in a lightning attack. The city is still subject to air strikes, but much less frequently than in the first six months after the invasion.
Since then, the Tantjura family has returned to Kharkiv. So do many of his friends.
-I feel more comfortable in Ukraine. I have friends and family here. So I feel safer in Ukraine.
– Maybe some people think it looks a bit strange?
– Yes, I can understand that. Both Israel and Ukraine are concerned about the missiles. When an aviation alarm goes off, you run for cover, but in Ukraine you don’t have to worry about being attacked by a terrorist on your way to the bomb room, Tantjura replies.
In 2022, Israeli authorities recorded more than 5,000 cases What they described as terrorist attacks. However, the majority of these cases, just under 3,000, were cases of stone throwing. There were nearly 1,000 incidents of rocket or artillery fire against Israel.
There were also 31 stabbings, 173 shootings, 111 explosions caused by different types of bombs, and eight collisions.
“I am more afraid of terrorist attacks than Russian missiles,” Tantjora says.
– Everything happened very quickly
The 20-year-old does not hide the fact that history could have been different if he had found himself in his homeland in Israel.
-I am very grateful to Israel and the opportunities I have been given. There are a lot of good things about Israel, but for my part, they are not outweighed by the negatives, says Tentsgora.
In retrospect, he also believes that he should have waited longer before taking such a drastic step.
– Everything happened so fast, it was really so random. I didn’t do much research, and I knew very little about Israel. If you are moving abroad first, you should absolutely choose it yourself. In my case, I traveled because I felt the alternatives weren’t good, Tantjora says.
He’s also not sure if he would have chosen to stay even if he had enjoyed himself. When Tantspora’s closest family and friends chose to return to Kharkiv, the homesickness became great.
“I belong to Ukraine,” he says.
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