Yulia is a Ukrainian refugee. Australia saved her.
Yulia’s family was one of them.
Sarah first learned of them from her brother, a rabbi and scholar in Israel. Yulia was one of his online students and asked him for help after the war started. He put her in touch with Sarah.
Meanwhile, Melbourne man Marc Fookes, 84, had read about the Soft Landing project in the pages of The Australian Jewish News and was eager to help the cause. He immediately contacted Sarah.
“People are being killed so needlessly. I wanted to save the Ukrainians if I could,” says Marc Mama Mia. He talks about his own father of Polish origin, who arrived in Australia a year before the start of the Second World War. “He had a big heart” – and helped many Holocaust refugees.
“Many of his family members were killed or escaped from concentration camps and came here. My parents did a lot to help them.
And although modest, Marc has done a lot to help Yulia’s family – paying for all their flights to take them from Europe to Australia, and now their deposit and first month’s rent.
But that was only the beginning of their relationship.
Once there, Marc wanted to meet Yulia.
“The first thing I got was a huge hug from him. Yulia said, ‘Thank you for saving our lives,'” says Marc.
“Now she calls me ‘father’!” – and at the right time, Yulia calls Marc on the other phone line while we are talking.
“It really touches my heart. Now my family has grown, which is a beautiful thing that is happening. I’m warm inside about it all. And the kids are lovely,” adds Marc with a laugh. warm.
“I wish more people would help me. I’m worried about those who can afford to help but don’t. We’re talking about people’s lives here.
When Yulia arrived in Australia, she was struck by the kindness and generosity of Marc, the family who took them in and temporarily housed them, and “so many” others.
“Australians are very, very nice people. So many people quietly helped us. We are so grateful,” she exclaims.
“A lady offered us dinner. I was shocked. I don’t know her, but she knew about us and she came to the door with dinner for us,” Yulia said, her words tightening.