Iryna Frolova is my neighbor from Podil, we live on the same floor. I haven’t been in Kyiv for almost a year, so I invited Iryna to have dinner together, talk about life. The neighbor said that she planned to spend the winter in Tel Aviv, but it did not work out – she was deported. Iryna shared her shocking experience of traveling to Israel and talked about the abuse of Ukrainians at Ben-Gurion airport. The story struck me so much that I asked Irina not to be silent; thousands of Ukrainians, escaping from the war, are subjected to similar humiliations. At a time when we are trustingly waiting for world support, some, taking advantage of our weakness, resort to brutality at the level of perversions and continue to flirt with Russia… This story is like a document written verbatim. Therefore, Irina’s direct speech follows. “On the night of December 18-19, 2022, I took Paris (Irina’s Jack Russell dog – ed.), and we went by bus to Poland to fly to Tel Aviv. I was invited by friends, they were worried about how I would stay in the winter without light and heat in Kyiv. We practically did not sleep, Ukraine was then attacked by “shaheds”, there was no light, we drove on dark roads. When we crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border, it was a miracle for me how much light there can be somewhere. In Warsaw, at the airport Chopin’s dog had to be returned. As soon as we landed in Tel Aviv, I immediately rushed to passport control to pick up Paris as soon as possible. There was a long line in the hall where the documents were checked. The workers were talking to people in line, and many were being ushered out, they said to sit on a chair and wait. I went to the window, the worker looked at my passport for a long time. Then she called a colleague. In the end, I was asked to join those people who were sitting on the chairs. They said to wait, but for what and for how long, no one said. I started to look and listen to those who were nearby. The hall was practically full, among the detainees (we got to know each other later) were Muslims, Russians, Belarusians, Spaniards and Ukrainians. Time passed, I did not understand what was happening, where is my Paris. I approached the airport staff and told them that I had flown here with my dog. She asked me to pick her up, but there was only one answer: you were told to wait, so sit and wait (I’m telling the story now, and Paris shuddered, although she usually doesn’t do this). Then I asked for help from everyone I could ask. And in just three hours of such detention, one of the workers went to meet me. As I found out later, he himself had a dog, so he sympathized with me. Despite the established rules, this man took me to the baggage hall. And there, near the garbage can, I saw a carrier with my Paris. It wasn’t even a garbage dump, but a landfill. My dog is very lively and has a restless personality. And here I had to sit in a carrier for so long. It was simply thrown away, although the workers definitely saw that the animal was alive: the airline affixed the label “Live Animal” to the carrier back in Warsaw. I grabbed Paris, she was unnaturally quiet, experienced an indescribable shock. I was allowed to take the dog on a leash and we went back to the hall where I was waiting for the documents. But Paris was free for a short time, at some point a cat entered the hall, she began to react, and I was told to put the dog back in the carrier. Apparently, Paris’s barking somehow sped up the process, because I was called in for an interview that only lasted 5 minutes. The employee asked two questions: do I have children and am I married. I answered that there were no children and no husband. The woman looked at me with condemnation and said: “I don’t like it, because you can get married here.” She made a note to herself, and then told her to go to the hall and wait. This method was applied to everyone, by the way. They ask one or two questions, and again they say to wait. Out of desperation, people started getting to know each other, sharing food, whoever had what. A girl with a cat, for example, escaped from Donetsk region. There were several women from Mariupol. We were not fed. We were not given water. It was impossible to buy it, there was not even a cooler anywhere. It’s a good thing that I took food for Paris with me on the plane. We asked the workers where we could get water, they advised us to drink water from the toilet. That’s what we did.” * That day Iryna had some unfortunate friends. They still communicate. I called Alina from Odessa, together with her adult daughter, they were at Ben-Gurion Airport that day. This is what she told me. Alina: ” My daughter and I wanted to rest at least a little from the war and spend time at sea in Israel, we went for 10 days. But they deported us, they told us that our daughter was unmarried, and in case she didn’t get married in Israel, it was better not to let her in at all. The “little one” was not asked, but they took the phone out of her hands, checked everything: photos, correspondence. Then we were ordered to go to the next room, it was small, about 3 by 4 meters. People were pushed there as much as in an overcrowded bus. Everyone was submissive, some even guilty. I refused to go there. The worker did not like this, she went behind the door of her cubicle, sat down and started “poking” my middle finger. The hall was full of video surveillance cameras, probably she wanted to provoke me to aggression. But I didn’t get carried away.” Iryna continues: “We all got to know each other, there were Russians among us. At least half of them were let through, but none of the Ukrainians. Some of the Russians and Belarusians who were with us had Jewish roots. I remember two Russians, a mother and her son. The woman wanted to save the boy from the war, they ran away from the village, it was impossible to return. 90 boys who refused to go to war against Ukraine were shot at the place of deployment. This guy was not spared in Israel, he was deported, and he was crying… There was also a Ukrainian in the hall who had been working in Italy for many years. He was going to Tel Aviv to visit his wife and children. They didn’t let him in either, they deported him, because they suspected that he was going to earn money. The man showed a work contract from Italy, said he had a great job. We were called one by one for an interview. And it happened like this: the employee called out the surname, while the pronunciation was so distorted that you did not understand whether it was actually your name. If you do not respond, wait further. My name is simple, Frolova. But I didn’t hear them calling me. More than 10 hours have passed. When I came to ask when I would finally be released, they said that they had already been called, but I did not respond. Although there was nowhere to go, we were kept in a closed hall all the time. Then we learned that there are several such rooms with people. A chocolate machine was found in the corner of the second hall, but Ukrainian cards did not work in it. People’s phones started running out of power, we couldn’t charge them, there were only two sockets in two halls that fell out of the wall. A line formed near them. A separate bullying that I noticed is language. I have a British economic education and a good level of English; I did not want to communicate with passport control employees in Russian. But they were unhappy and spoke only Russian, almost without an accent, so I thought that they must be from Russia. When I was invited to an interview for the second time, my documents were checked. Paris and I had return tickets for March 20, and there was an invitation letter from friends, which stated that they were expecting me for the winter. They asked everything: where did I meet my friend, what is her maiden name, does she have a husband? I answered that this is her second husband, then they asked me, what is the first husband’s last name and first name? I remembered only his name. She explained that I am many years old, I have many girlfriends, some have already married for the third time, so I cannot remember all of them. Then the customs officer asked why I had spent 90 days in Israel. I explained that we have a war, problems with critical infrastructure, water supply, electricity, heating. The worker just laughed at all this. The night has come. I was called twice. At 4 o’clock in the morning, they said that my case would now be considered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and that he would decide whether to let me in or not. I understood that they were mocking me, because I am not the kind of person to interest the minister, and even in “off-hours”. At dawn, my heart seized, I began to suffocate. She showed the medical insurance card to the airport employee, people asked to call a doctor. But I heard the standard: “you were told to wait in the corner, so wait.” For some reason, they kept telling everyone to wait “in the corner”. I understood that I could die, and I was very worried about what would happen to Paris. At 7 a.m., a medical worker came, took my blood pressure, stayed by my side until I felt better, and left. I was already too exhausted, I was crying. It was already the third day without sleep for me. Some women asked to wash. They were offered places in the airport prison and told that they could sleep there right away. But it was a trap, because as we understood later, it is impossible to get out of that prison whenever you want; they are released only when a place is found for the deportee on the plane, and this can take weeks… At 9 in the morning, the airport employee finally handed over the documents on deportation for 5 years. I was suspected of wanting to stay and receive social assistance in Israel. I said that I understood everything, to which he replied: “Your opinion is of no interest to anyone.” The bullying did not end there. I was offered the services of a local lawyer and to stay at the airport for 2 days. I refused, because I suspected that it was some kind of well-established business. The only thing I wanted was to get home to Kyiv as soon as possible. I was ordered to wait for the plane in the general hall of the airport, but I couldn’t go outside or buy food, because I was told that a seat on the plane might become available at any moment, so they would call me. I wanted to go for a walk with Paris, but I was refused. I had to ask a random woman to walk my dog. There were other deportees on the benches nearby. At lunch, they silently brought us a box with rolls and several bottles of water. It was a little cheese roll, that’s all. I asked to go to the area of the airport where there are restaurants to buy something, but I was not allowed. There was not enough food for everyone, water too. Airport employees approached the box with buns and started packing some people into backpacks, apparently their acquaintances. Then we, 15 deportees, were gathered and taken for inspection. They decided to examine one Muslim completely, looked through his things, stripped down to his underwear. In the end, they promised to put me on the evening flight to Warsaw. It was only 3:00 p.m., but Paris had already been taken, and this was 5 hours before departure. 16 deported Ukrainian women flew on this plane. I had not seen these exhausted women before, they then told me that they had flown by Wizzair, and as soon as they got off the plane, they were informed of deportation without even checking their documents. I saw a Ukrainian woman who was crying because she had been in such conditions for 4 days. We shared a meal with her. Someone who knew when he had a plane could finally go and buy something. I bought a salad with tuna for 470 hryvnias, yogurt for 317 and water for 164. In total, almost a thousand hryvnias, not everyone had that kind of money. We were not told what would happen to the luggage. Many deported women were from Mariupol and Donetsk, Russia completely destroyed their homes, and all they had left were the things in those suitcases. But I don’t know if they received them. Alina and her daughter, for example, waited for theirs only in April. And then the luggage was delivered to Chisinau, even though the girls were from Odesa. At 19:00 we were gathered again and taken to the departure area. One of the employees came up to me and said that her heart was breaking because my Paris was crying. It was not allowed to take her into the cabin of the plane. Deported Ukrainian women were given passports before boarding the plane. They gave it to everyone, but not to me; they said that they would be with the flight attendants until the flight to Warsaw… I don’t understand why the Israeli crew was so overconfident, where, in their opinion, could I go from that plane? …In the baggage hall of Warsaw, I was met by an employee with a carrier in which Paris was. Some plastic fasteners appeared on the carrier, which did not open in any way. I have no idea who got them there. Maybe Paris was sneaking out? I was happy that my dog was alive and that she was with me. …This Israeli experience traumatized me, I decided that I would not go anywhere from Kyiv during the war. I often think, why this attitude towards Ukrainians? One can only guess: Russia has great influence on Iran and Syria, which are Israel’s neighbors, so Israel is very afraid of how Russia will react if they suddenly start helping Ukraine. And also, I think, the influence of Russian propaganda, which calls the people of Bandera the murderers of Jews. And those who do not know history believe in it.” Olga Freimut, journalist, specially for UP.Zhyttia Publications in the “View” section are not editorial articles and reflect the author’s point of view exclusively.
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