Jewish refugees from Ukraine find refuge on the shores of a Hungarian lake

BALATONOSZOD, Hungary, July 15 (Reuters) – Neomi Gluzman Kravchenko plays with her son in a kosher shelter on the shores of Lake Balaton in Hungary – a haven for her and her Jewish community hundreds of miles from their war-torn homes in Ukraine.

The Kharkiv psychiatrist and millions of other Ukrainians fled after Russia launched its invasion on February 24, finding protection wherever they could with families and charities.

Many Jewish families passed through the “Machne Chabad” relief village on their way to other destinations. “People went to Israel… Some went to the United States,” she says.

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Others like her are still there across the border in Hungary, pausing for a moment and wondering if they can wait out the war.

Earlier this week, families kept their spirits up with a day of dancing, eating and religious celebration.

These traditions had flourished in Ukraine before the conflict, said Slomo Koves, chief rabbi of the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities (EMIH), which runs the center on land provided by the Hungarian government.

“Jewish life was so flourishing, so strong, so rich. Just before the war, they say it was like a peak… And that’s why it’s such a shame that it all fell apart in one single day because of the war.

“Everyone is hoping that they will have a chance to go back, to go home and start that Jewish life again.”

About 400 people live in the camp, the largest of its kind in Europe, run by EMIH and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine on the site of a former resort of communist leaders.

Another of the residents is software developer Saul Melamed, who had already been forced to flee his home in Ukraine’s Donetsk region years before the invasion, during battles with Russian-backed separatists.

This time he headed for Kyiv. This time he had to cross the border to find safety.

“The longer the war lasts, the lower the chances of people coming back,” he said.

(This story corrects the name of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine in paragraph 9)

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Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo, writing by Anita Komuves; Editing by Andrew Heavens

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Laura T. Thrasher