EXCLUSIVE: On-the-ground Report from Ukraine, Community Spent Shabbos on the run, Ultimately Making it to Safety Shabbos Day
By: Boropark24 Staff
Hundreds of evacuees from the thriving Kehillas Beis Aaron of Karlin Stolin in Kiev are recuperating in these hours, after reaching the safety of Belarus, following a harrowing escape over Shabbos—on top of weeks already on the run.
We spoke exclusively with askonim from the communities of Kiev and Belarus about the miraculous events that are still unfolding.
Kehillas Beis Aaron was a thriving community in Kiev, founded and guided by the Stoliner Rebbe, shlit”a, drawing in neshomos from throughout Ukraine—where their Yiddishkeit had been so brutally robbed from them over the seventy years of the Communist regime.
With the imminent outbreak of the war, they were instructed to leave the city—bringing the holy work, and the growth of the hundreds of members of the kehillah in Kiev, a relatively modern metropolis with many comforts of a big city, to a grounding halt. The saga of the ensuing ten days was likewise with the step-by-step instructions of Gedolei Yisroel who guide this community.
With Kiev being the most dangerous target, the community left the city on buses last Wednesday (ten days ago) with the destination of the hamlet of Medzibuz, spending Shabbos in the glow of the holy Ba’al Shem Tov, davening for safety of them and their families, and all the Yidden of Ukraine.
Following Shabbos, as war was looming, askonim worked with the stranded community to find a more permanent safe haven. Offers came in from a number of small towns in more rural areas, and in cities across borders. But none of them came to fruition.
It took until Thursday night to settle upon the sister community of Pinsk, Belarus, where the legendary Yad Yisroel institutions of Karlin Stolin operate numerous institutions.
But the bus driver had disappeared, and it was impossible to get a new bus—as the community was frantically seeking to escape. When he reappeared on Tuesday night, he was drunk… and needed to sleep it off. Then, the bus company called, refusing to allow their bus to head toward a border where tens of thousands of Russian troops were amassing. Now, Shabbos was approaching, and war had broken out. Following the psak of great rabbonim who ruled that they continue their journey throughout Shabbos, they set out on Friday afternoon, northward, toward the Belarusian border.
“About 3:04 in the morning,” relates Pinsk’s Reb Moshe Fhima, a tireless askan and leader of the community, “I received the call that the busses made it to Ovruch, about 50 km from the border of Belarus. But the road was blocked off, and although the bribed Ukrainian soldiers were willing to let them through, they reported shooting on the other end of the road, making their approach to the border impossible.
“But Google Maps was working,” he tells us. “And we were able to guide the busses to the border through dirt roads all the way to the border, where our buses were waiting for them,” says Reb Moshe, who spent the entire Shabbos guiding them, and negotiating with authorities for their safety.
Shabbos afternoon, the community made it to Mazyr, Belarus, and from there they will be proceeding to Pinsk, where they will be absorbed into the institutions, and continue their spiritual journey.
“But the work is not finished,” says Reb Moshe. “We are fielding calls from many others who are trying to cross… but that road is no longer passable. Of course, we will continue to do everything in our power until every last Yid is brought to safety.”