The exodus of a Jew from Mariupol: his pregnant mother fled from the Holocaust and he from the Russians, 80 years later | International

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Gennady Dubin, a Holocaust survivor and refugee who fled from Mariupol, Ukraine, in Netanya, Israel, on Wednesday.Sara Gómez Armas (EFE)

Genadi Dubin’s gaze is still lost in the green parks of Mariupol, on the shores of the Sea of ​​Azov. “It was a European city, full of life,” she recalls in a hotel on the Israeli Mediterranean coast before an audience of Ukrainian refugees fleeing from the war. “Today everything is grey, ashes and ruins. It is a city full of corpses,” she recounts, as sunset on Wednesday marks the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Jewish state. Just 10 days ago Dubin, an 81-year-old physics professor, landed at Tel Aviv airport, where his new Israeli identity documents awaited him after an odyssey of more than six weeks through a devastated country.

For the second time, the Jew Dubin has had to undertake an exodus to save his life. The first time he left Mariupol, in the face of advancing Nazi forces, he was still in his mother’s womb. He now he has managed to escape under the bombs of a city devastated and surrounded by Russian troops.

In 1941, his parents sent their two unborn children, ages six and two, with one of their grandmothers to the Caucasus, before being evacuated to Stalingrad along with the workers of a metal factory vital to the Red Army during World War II. World. Guenadi was born there, but her family had to flee again in 1942, this time to Siberia, when the German Army launched a suicidal battle for control of the city, today called Volvograd. When they returned to Mariupol in 1948, they learned that the two eldest sons in the family had been murdered by the Nazis, along with their grandmother, because of their Jewishness.

“Now I have felt just as helpless as my parents did 80 years ago. Hopefully the war ends soon and no one has to suffer something like this ever again…”. Emotion interrupts from time to time her victim account recognized by the Claims Conference, an organization that seeks material compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world. Dubin participates in a session of remembrance of the Jewish extermination called Memory in the Living Room, in which those who still have a living memory of the Soah bear witness to the tragedy before later generations.

For more than a decade, Israel has promoted these meetings in a familiar and close environment to keep alive the flame of the memory of the Holocaust of more than six million Jews, 2.7 of them in the territory of the former Soviet Union, in the face of the progressive disappearance of the last survivors. Some 180,000 still live in Israel, with a median age of over 85. Last year more than 15,000 died.

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The Ukrainian refugees sheltered at the Park hotel on the Netanya seafront, 30 kilometers north of Tel Aviv, listen with reverence to Genadi Dubin’s words. Many have gone to this place on the coast because it has thousands of inhabitants originally from the USSR, from which nearly a million Jews emigrated to Israel three decades ago. They hope to rebuild their lives with fewer obstacles in a city where Russian is spoken naturally on the streets. More than 25,000 Ukrainians have applied for asylum in Israel, according to estimates reported by the Hebrew press. Two-thirds are Jewish or meet the requirements of the Law of Return (at least one Jewish grandparent), which grants the right of nationality to those from the diaspora.

“I went to school in Mariupol, did my military service and studied at the University until I became a Physics teacher for decades,” the Jewish refugee details the flow of a normal life. He married the math teacher Valentina, who is now 72 years old. They had a daughter – Tatiana, 43 years old – who is also a secondary school teacher. The two have now accompanied him on a second exodus, when his life has once again been ruined by the war.

A quiet single-family house in the suburbs

“Until February 24, everything was calm, reasonably calm, in a single-family house on the outskirts of Mariupol. But everything changed when Russia invaded Ukraine”, recounts in his native Russian language the tribulations of the escape before a rapt audience. “First we lived in the basement of the house, until March 5. We were basically waiting for death under the bombing,” she admits. Her daughter noticed that the Russian attacks stopped every 40 minutes and encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunity. She didn’t want to leave her house, but she convinced him to drive to the center of town, which seemed safer. She believes that this is how they saved their lives.

Then came the bombing of the Mariupol Drama Theatre, killing some 300 people, according to local authorities, in one of the deadliest attacks of the war. Hundreds of people used the building as a shelter in the port city besieged by Russian forces.

They escaped again. “Seven of us got into a small car and arrived at a camp for displaced people. We had nothing. We were only able to share a small bowl of soup for everyone”, describes the hardship of her ordeal.

The Dubin family then contacted an NGO that helps evacuate Jews from Ukraine. “They found us a hotel in Zaporizhia. For the first time in several weeks we were able to sleep and eat well and drink drinking water”, he recalls the first stage of his journey, once they were away from the front line of combat.

They followed an exit route – always to the west – through the cities of Dnipro and Vinnytsia, where they were accommodated in hostels and private homes. On April 18, a vehicle picked them up to take them to the border with Poland. “We had to cross on foot, but my wife and I were exhausted,” shows the crutch with which he still helps himself to walk. “Some volunteers evacuated us in a wheelchair”, she specifies with gratitude. Twenty-four hours later they took off from Warsaw in the direction of Tel Aviv.

The double exodus of Genadi Dubin and his family has been shared by other attendees at the Memory session in the Living Room at Netanya’s old Park Hotel. “Eighty years later, we too have experienced another exodus,” says Irina Ardashev, a physiotherapist who has fled from Odessa at the age of 44. “This war has given us back an awareness of the Holocaust. We thought that this pain would never come back,” says Yulia Barkov, a 48-year-old teacher who escaped the destruction of Kharkov, with a broken voice. Dubin nods impassively, with the absent air of one who has left behind, perhaps forever, a peaceful life in Mariupol.

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