KYIV — Viktoriia Gryshchenko, an intellectual property rights specialist from Kyiv, arrived in Israel only 10 days ago, looking forward to a temporary break from Russia’s war on her homeland.
“But I only escaped from war into another war. And I say that with a bitter smile on my face,” said Gryshchenko, who had not left Kyiv since the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine more than 19 months ago.
On the morning of October 7, she awoke in Petah Tikva, a city 10 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, just as if she were back in Kyiv on February 24, 2022, as Hamas launched thousands of missiles at Israel. In addition to rocket barrages, Hamas militants stormed into Israel, killing hundreds and kidnapping dozens more. In response, Israel launched a large-scale assault and siege of Gaza.
“I can compare both wars. And Hamas is acting just like Russia. Identical attacks, identical atrocities,” Gryshchenko told POLITICO. “I can see this is the same evil that came to us.”
She is among more than 1,000 Ukrainians who have requested evacuation from Israel, while another 200 Ukrainian citizens are trapped in the Gaza Strip, according to Ukrainian officials. The first evacuation flight from Israel is planned for Saturday, with another one set for Sunday.
Gryshchenko hopes to get on one of the evacuation flights and then to return to Ukraine soon, despite the other war that continues to rage there.
Russian forces have been storming Avdiivka, an industrial city in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, for days, aiming to encircle Ukrainian forces fighting there. Although war maps by DeepState project show Moscow’s forces have gained some ground north of Avdiivka, Ukrainian troops are still holding the line in the city, according to the Ukrainian Army General Staff.
Back in the Middle East, some 1,300 in Israel have died in the conflict so far, while officials in Gaza say more than 1,500 people have been killed there in Israel’s retaliatory strikes.
Ukrainians are among the casualties.
“The number of dead Ukrainians in Israel has increased to seven people. Consuls … are taking measures for the repatriation of the bodies,” Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement on Thursday. “Another nine Ukrainians are considered missing.”
“About 200 Ukrainians have declared their desire to evacuate from the Gaza Strip,” Nikolenko said. But “due to the lack of security, departure is currently impossible,” he said.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ukrainian embassies in Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, as well as other involved departments of Ukraine, are making active efforts to get our people out as soon as possible,” he said.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry press service told POLITICO that Kyiv plans to evacuate Ukrainians to other countries in Europe with the first flight planned for Romania. Gryshchenko hopes to be on that first evacuation flight, and then return to Ukraine.
She said the Ukrainian embassy and consuls have been quite responsive and helpful.
“Panic is a bad helper. To solve something, you need to have a calm mind. Unfortunately, the heart and soul do not always follow this,” Gryshchenko said.