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Aaron Kaganovsky: The community in Mariupol is in turmoil, and we are trying to persuade everyone who is willing to leave

The assistant to the chief rabbi of Mariupol told Jewishnews.com.ua about the situation in the city and the community’s reaction to the tragedy that took place on Saturday.

What is happening to the community? What mood are the people in? Have any of them suffered?

According to preliminary information one woman from our community was killed by the explosion. If yesterday the number of people killed was estimated at 30, today we know that the number of victims has increased to almost 100.
There’s turmoil in the community, but we continue to function. Additionally, we are trying to persuade everyone who is willing to leave the city for Zhitomir and other places where we may be received. The move will be organized with our help.

We are working in this direction because it’s unclear what will happen next.

Did the local community offer the opportunity to move to Zhitomir?

Yes, the Zhitomir community is helping us. They even provide a place where people can live. We provide help with the most essential things, including a bus.

Has the number of people in the city dropped, in your opinion? Is there panic among Mariupol residents?

Yes, there is panic. Yesterday there were a lot of cars at the checkpoint, and a traffic jam formed, people were simply leaving. I can’t say what the percentage is, but several thousand people left the city.

The city got empty very quickly and drastically. When there were disturbances in summer, people came to us from Donetsk and Lugansk, because it was safe here. But now people have started fleeing, and the city has become empty.
Today it’s completely empty. I’m in shock from what I see on the streets. What happened is terrible.

Is the same thing happening to members of your community?

We immediately took the Jewish community under control in this matter, to avoid hysteria. We want to organize a mass move. On Monday we’ll submit the final lists, but it’s practically impossible to prepare them in one day, especially as the tragedy happened on Shabbat.

We already have around 70 people who wish to leave, only the ones who have already said “yes” and have tried to leave themselves. But we also have elderly people who can’t leave, it is hard for them. Above all, we have called the families of all the children at the school and kindergarten.

Have city residents who are not from the community (non-Jews) come to you for help?

No, no one has. There are a lot of volunteer organizations who help people, and provide them with clothing and accommodation, for a number of houses were destroyed. If people come to us, we will help them, for misfortune has no color or nationality.

 

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