Latest News

Why I slept on the Royal bed. A personal reflection after the Queen’s death.

By Paul Cainer.

I’m tempted to say: I spent large chunks of time in the Royal bed. But that might be a little misleading.  

Actually, I slept on a mattress embroidered with a huge Royal Crown.  My father’s first job after emigrating to South Africa from England in 1946, was to be the accountant of the Airflex mattress company, and when there was to be a Royal Visit the factory was commissioned to make luxurious mattresses for the King, the Queen and two princesses, visiting their South African dominion.

After their sojourn in Cape Town, one of those mattresses somehow ended up as my bed throughout my schoolyears.- and very elegant it was too.  I tried this week to call Airflex in Cape Town to check if indeed my father had been given it, or had he, er, liberated it (that’s the post-apartheid term for stealing.  Alas, the phone just buzzes, and the email address doesn’t work.

In retrospect, my childhood’s Crowned mattress symbolised the fierce loyalty most English-speaking South Africans felt towards Royalty, and indeed to Britain.  The  majority of English-speakers in the 1960s looked to Britain and the Queeen as protector not only of black civil rights but also their own.  Since 1948, less than two years after the Royal Visit, the country had been ruled by hardline nationaolist white Afrikaners, which had nurtured some hardliner groups that favoured Hitler, including the notrouous Ossewabrandwag (Ox-wagon Fire Guards), of which the apartheid era’s toughest president, John Vorster, had been a leading youth member.  

Afrikaners had risen to power in 1948 and South Africa was pressured out of the Commonwealth in 1960 and declared itself a republic, thereby diminishing any potential British or Royal protection for ethnic minorities — and majorities. Yet South African courts and judges bravely used English law civil liberty guarantees to minimise the draconian laws against dissent  that Parliament imposed. “Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are part of the democratic rights of every citizen,”  a high court judge ruled in freeing my protesting fellow-students and myself in 1972. He found my protesting fellow-students and myself not guilty of ‘riotous assembly’.

We left-wing Jewish students pointed out in leaflets quoting Isiah who said that the fast and repentance God wanted was to vow to break the chains of bondage for all people.  This messge was not universally welcomed.

Many students chose to vote with their feet, and emigrate from what was basically a paradise, and almost all my university law class of 1976, including me, now live outside the country. Partly that was a general worry about likely civil war (which never happened), but largely it was  because we felt unable to live in a country with the immoral enforcement of apartheid.  Finally in some cases young whites left because of black majority misrule after the Mandela era ended. image.png
The Royal family (and Peter Townsend, far right) outside Government House where they slept. 


After their sojourn in Cape Town, one of those mattresses somehow ended up becoming my bed – and very comfortable it was too – throughout my school-years.  I tried last week to call and email Airflex in Cape Town to find out how it had come into our possession.  Alas, it seems to be too late to find out: the phone just buzzes and the email address doesn’t work.

When I was 23 and an anti-apartheid activist I had to leave South Africa rapidly. I now look back on my childhood’s nightly Royal resting place, so to speak, as a harbinger of my seeking refuge from the apartheid regime in the Queen’s country, Britain. Even though our first loyalty was to our country of birth, English-speaking South Africans felt bonded with Royalty, and indeed to Britain.  

Interestingly and significantly, Nelson Mandela was a good friend of Britain. Our country’s great leader forged a close relationship with the Queen – against protocol, they called each other by their first names. 

South Africa re-joined the Commonwealth, and we hoped the example of Britain, a democratic state, would have some impact on South Africa’s current rulers. Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma have had Royal Visits to Britian, and President Cyril Ramaphosa is due another one this November.  But unfortunately for my countrymen and countrywomen the Royal crown (on my bed or in the wider world) carries little weight in the new South Africa. 

Analysis Eyewitness Insight Latest News

With prospects of victory looking slim, Ukrainians are waiting – in hope rather than in confidence.

With prospects of victory looking slim, Ukrainians are waiting – in hope rather than in confidence.

 It was a strange but almost comical scene.

A dog was running towards me across Kyiv’s central landmark, Independence Square.  And trying with some difficulty to restrain the animal, on a long lead, was the dog’s new master, 26-year-old Sviatoslav Yurash, Ukraine’s youngest member of parliament.

He had been driven from Kyiv to Bucha just after the Russian troops had pulled out, and saw bodies on the street and other evidence of atrocities.   Special forces had broken in to a locked house to find the owner dead on the floor, and his dog alongside.  Miserable and half-starved, the dog started yelping.  

Soldiers, who had house-to-house searches and booby-trap clearance to prioritise, suggested the animal should be eliminated.  Instead, Sviatoslav persuaded them to let him bundle the dog into his vehicle. In Kyiv,the dog was given its new name.  The two have become closely bonded.

Sviatoslav has another claim to fame: eight years ago, he returned from a scholarship in India, aged 18, to take part in a huge popular uprising in this same square, against a Ukrainian president who was little more than a Russian puppet.

Brave and fluent in English, Sviatoslav became the revolution’s unofficial foreign press spokesman. More than 100 protesters died in months of unrest in that uprising, now also commemorated in the road in front of the Square, called The Alley of the Hundred Heroes. Sviatoslav showed me the cartoons that now adorn the square and large signs, telling the revolutionaries’ story in graphic detail.

The Russian puppet regime was toppled in early 2014. That triggered a series of events that led that year to the Russians occupying two key parts of the Ukrainian territory: the Crimean peninsula, and parts of Dombas in the east.

Yurash belongs to President Zelensky’s ruling party, Servant of the People – incidentally, the same name as the popular television show about a comedian who becomes Ukraine’s president. (Life imitated art — the star of that show was Zelensky).

Today, Yurash is livid. He’s been reading reports that the French and the Germans, and even some American voices, reflected in the New York Times, are suggesting Ukraine should offer to cede territory in the east and south in return for peace.

“Those who suggest this are nothing more than useful idiots,” he snaps. “Useful, that is, to Putin, subversive of our chances of success.”  He argues that Ukrainians, if given Western support that includes full economic and military pressure, can and will eventually regain all the territories Ukraine has lost so far in this war, and even much, if not all, of the land occupied in 2014.  And in any case, that even if Russia accepted ‘land for peace’, it would just lead to Russia launching new aggression within months or years.

I had first met Yurash and dog in early April just after a very memorable Shabbat. After a food-deprived night train journey from the Polish border through Lviv (Lvov), I had arrived at a city that was close to shut-down. The station was considered a military target – no photos allowed of an old steam train – as people wondered if the Russian forces had really withdrawn from their spearhead 30 kilometres north. One boy, about five, was calling for his mother and father; no-one had told him they were both dead.

I eventually found a small place serving coffee, no cake.

On that trip it was noticeable that fear was turning to exultation as the Russian failure to reach Kyiv became clearer and the extent of Putin’s losses were revealed.  There was also shock and horror at the reports of its atrocities in Bucha and other just-liberated cities.

Now I was back for a third time.  Even though the city itself was very seldom being struck by missiles (one or two sirens a day, ignored by most people) the mood was feeling grim again.  The situation in the east was precarious.  And the brave resistance at the destroyed southern port of Mariupul had finally collapsed.

Getting an interview with President Zelensky was proving impossible – “he is rather busy,” said the young MP with considerable under-statement.  But I felt getting the capital city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko was an equally big scoop. 

Last week he agreed.  Inside a high-security sandbagged building – Klitschko like Zelensky is thought to be a prime target for Russian assassination efforts — the famous former world heavyweight boxing champion explained why despite some setbacks he is confident of ultimate victory.

“Firstly, no-one would launch this kind of war in 21st century Europe unless he’s suffering from a very sick mind,” he told me. “And secondly, our people fighting for our homes and our lives.  I ask Russian soldiers: is it worth it to die here in a foreign land far from your homes?”

The mayor adds: “I have Russian blood in my veins.  My mother is Russian, and speaks no Ukrainian, by the way.  I cannot hate my mother.  How can I hate Russians? I just hate what they do.”

Klitschko, whose daily energies are devoted to bringing in and supplying food and electricity and shore up military defences, has become so disillusioned with the Russians that he ordered “with great reluctance” the dismantling of a famous landmark in his city.  Underneath the Friendship Arch lay a huge statue of two men facing each other, arms held aloft — the Soviet-era Statue of Friendship between the Ukrainian and Russian Peoples.

“When Russians have killed tens of thousands of my people, including so many civilians, and when they want to destroy my entire country, this is not the time to have statues about our so-called friendship,” he tells me. 

Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko
Former world heavyweight champions, the mayor and his brother sign boxing gloves. Copyright: Paul Martin

He and his younger brother Wladimir — they never boxed against each other because, they told me, their mother ordered them not to — together dominated world heavyweight boxing for more than a decade.  

Boxing has taught lessons in persistence and tactical nous that have proved useful in combating the Russian invasion, the mayor tells me. “And I’ve learned not to judge from appearances – some macho people crumbled, and some mild and meek people turned into lions here.”

Ukrainian brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko inside their ‘bunker’ in Kyiv
Knuckling down to combating the invaders. Copyright: Paul Martin

Like most Ukrainians, the Klitschkos are contemptuous of Germany and France for continuing to pay billions for Russian gas and oil, feeding its war machine.  But, says Vitali, “I love Boris”.  He pens a message, on a set of Klitschko official-tribute postage stamps, writing: “To Boris”.  He dates it and draws a heart.

 In the streets there similar determination but somewhat less confidence. A taxi driver tells me you can avoid conscription into the army if you have the right connections or the right large sum of money. “I love my country, but I don’t want to die,” the taxi-driver says.

A well-connected couple tells me: “We know things are being kept from the public, and it’s good they think we’re going to win.  But the truth will start to filter through to them within a month.”  They left the country by train a few days later.  

Reports of troop movements around the Belarus border suggest a new Russian attempt will be made to drive south and, this time, penetrate into Kyiv.   Social media is abuzz with these reports, urging people to retreat to their underground shelters again.  The army counters that it’s false propaganda spread by Russian psy-ops. Who knows?

“Of course, as the capital city, we remain a top Russian target,” says Wladimir Klitschko. The idea of another thrust fills many people with justified dread.

I make my second trip to Bucha and Irpin, satellite towns about twenty miles north of Kyiv.  The famous bridge near Irpin over the Dnepr River was destroyed by Ukrainian explosives, not by the Russians, to prevent the invaders thrusting further towards Kyiv.  Already a new temporary bridge is carrying traffic across into the satellite towns.

 In Bucha, the railway station has been reopened, and, nearby, where destroyed Russian tanks have now been removed, I buy a few frozen pastries from a bakery that’s going to open its doors to customers within days.  Not much else is working, apart from a gym.  But electricity is running again – supplied now Mayor Klitschko has erected cables from Kyiv.  

In a nearby village I walk through ruined apartment buildings, and despite the Russians having laid it waste more than two months ago, the smell of burning and charred remains still lingers. An enterprising builder has put up a notice on cardboard saying: “Windows replaced: cheap prices.”  Despite a trickle of people driving past to inspect their ruined apartments there’s no sign that the builder will be doing much trade soon.

I’m in the company of Viktor Synytsky, aged 43, who shows me where he escaped death because his Russian jailers fled during a Ukrainian bombardment.  In a cellar nearby I can see and film blood and bullet-holes – Ukrainian police had found the bodies of five men held prisoner there by the occupation forces.  

I later visited a local blogger who has taken in two boys whose mother was allegedly killed in her apartment by Russians.  At her temporary graveside, alongside their apartment block, the distraught confused child had brought his mother some food. The five-year-old refused to talk at all for a month. Now, he chatted and laughed as we sang Happy Birthday over a small cake, as his brother turned eleven. 

I also met a Ukrainian officer, Matvey Dykhanvovskyi, who had gone into Russian-held Irpin on a reconnaissance mission and when challenged had shot three Russians at close range.  He showed me the knife he said he’d taken from one of them.  Matvey suffered from severe symptoms of shock for days afterwards.

If things remain gloomy in these shattered towns, the sense of foreboding is even worse in villages and towns in the east.  Russian forces are making sporadic but steady progress in their blunt tactics of concentrating huge bombardments and slow moves of infantry.  And in the south, after the fall of Mariupul, the Russians have a major supply line to the east, and have shut off all the Black Sea ports to the west of Crimea, ensuring a disaster for the export of grain.

Kyiv itself is sunny and astonishingly well-kept – no rubbish whatsoever in the streets or gutters, for example.  Cafes, supermarkets, phone-shops and even barbers and hairdressers have reopened.  Things though, are not normal.   Sandbags are stacked at restaurant doors and at places of worship, and many ‘hedgehogs’ (X-shaped metal barriers) restrict passage in many places.  There’s an 11 pm strict curfew.  Posters and electronic signs proclaim the heroism of the soldiers and declare: Glory to Ukraine – the same statement that ends many conversations.

Most statues remain literally under wraps – protected as far as possible against shrapnel from any future rocket or missile attacks. (Nothing can protect them from a direct hit.)

Kyiv had a population of 4 million and though the main train station is bustling with returning refugees, well over a million are not back.  Millions have been displaced, and millions have left the war-torn country altogether – including the majority of the Jewish community.            

On the wall of the Chabad synagogue run by the city’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch and his wife Inna was a photograph of its football team.    I asked Rabbi Jonathan – who served twelve years in the Israeli air force — how many of the football team players were now in Kyiv.  None, was the answer.

 “They’re shooting at me with my own rockets,” exclaims an elderly gentleman in a smart Kyiv apartment.  Boris Prister, 87, shows me photos of his various international trips – something not allowed in Soviet times for most people.  He had become the deputy chief of a secret Soviet production facility for missiles, based in Moscow, and had designed a key part. 

He is offered a food parcel, which he and his wife say they don’t really need — and the opportunity to put on tefillin for the first time in his life. His wife scowls and he says: “Perhaps next time”.

Two days before the Russian attack, the leadership in the army and in politics were assuring everone that there would be no invasion. Then, amid the shock of the first few days of the war, the Ukrainian intelligence service heard that, in particular, rabbis would be attacked by Russian agents provocateurs

“They told us once we rabbis and their families were attacked the Russians would claim the Ukrainians were killing Jews – to back their propaganda that labelled Ukraine as a Nazi-led state,” Kiev’s chief rabbi Jonathan Markovitch told me.

 Special agents gave them ten minutes to pack their documents and grab some frozen bread, recalled the rabbi.  The rabbinic families were then spirited out of the country on a long hair-raising high-speed convoy, overtaking thousands of fleeing Ukrainian vehicles.  “It was like the exodus from Egypt,” the Rabbi says. “Except we were not fleeing from a Ukrainian pharaoh, just a Russian one!”  

As the Russian advance stalled the Rabbi and his wife returned.

“The courage needed here is different to the kind I had to develop in the Israeli air force,” Rabbi Jonathan concluded. “To help other people is not just something I can do, it’s something I must do, at all costs.”

But much of his community has fled. Next morning the once bustling Shabbat service was one short of a minyan.

The ebullient Post Office chief Igor Smelyanksy is not as upbeat as before.

He’s done a poll to see if the next stamp he issues should show Putin in chains.  Instead the public voted to display a dog called ‘Bullet’ that has become a sensation because he’s trained to sniff out hidden bombs and booby-traps. “I expected the anti-Putin stamp would get the most votes, but no. So it shows the nation’s not dwelling on hate, it’s looking for some form of hope and positivity,” Smelyansky says.

That positivity is hard to find though.  Most businesses are shut or struggling to survive.  I hear that a top legal firm has just laid off two senior staff, and a woman lawyer working there tells me she’s relieved to still be working, though her salary has been cut from 5 thousand dollars a month to one thousand.   Despite their plight, people are friendly and kind.

The city is making efforts to bolster morale.  Some of the ruined Russian tanks I first encountered on the road to Bucha and Irpin have been deposited in a square right opposite St Michael’s golden-domed church, along with samples of the casings of Russian rockets and missiles. On weekends, the public is out in force here — to exult.  Posters on the relics appeal for volunteer foreign soldiers to sign up for the fighting.

One foreign fighter on the eastern front-lines sends me graphic WhatsApps, including a video of a captured Russian soldier being interrogated.  That soldier “did not live much longer,” the foreign fighter says, without being more specific.

Less dramatic, domestic soldiery makes the biggest impression on me.

Alex Flolov is just 20, and each early morning patrols his square mile of apartment blocks, alongside Kyiv’s no-longer-working zoo — looking, he says, for spies.  The Russians, he says, are infiltrating people to seek out where next to attack.   He shows me a crater from a missile strike.  Part of it struck a children’s playground, and holes are gauged in the wooden slides. No children died here – it was hit at 6 a.m.

“They will never crush our spirit,” says Alex. “But we’re ready for worse.”

Latest News

How Ukraine’s Post Office chief is ‘stamping down’ on the Russian invaders.

Exclusive: from Kyiv, Ukraine

Amid the images of destruction inflicted by continued Russian attacks on a sovereign nation, Ukrainian television showed far less grim pictures this week. People were smiling — generally very happy to be queuing up in the streets again.

Thousands of eager locals stood since the very early hours at post offices around the country to collect a very precious commodity in the afternoon: stamps. They’re limited to two sets of six, and two special envelopes. 

So great has the demand been that in the capital Kyiv they’re being advised to come back for a third day, on Friday.

The country’s Postal Chief is Igor Smelyansky, a genial man oozing enthusiasm, whose father and mother are Jews from Odessa.  He believes his stamps are playing a vital role in raising the fighting spirit of his embattled nation. 

His original stamp was based on a radio signal reportedly sent at the start of this war to a Russian warship, rejecting its demand for a small group of Ukrainian marines defending a strategic island in the Black Sea to surrender.  A marine radioed back: “Russian warship go f–k yourself!”  The indelicate phrase, and its message of defiance, went viral across Ukraine and beyond.  

Smelyansky had the brainwave to create a stamp rejoicing in the Ukrainian marines’ defiance in the face of impossible odds. Two days after that stamp was issued, the Russians’ biggest Black Sea ship sank.

 Smelyansky, who spent years in New York’s Wall Street arranging company mergers before returning to Ukraine, has now put on sale a new witty propaganda brainchild: new stamps reflecting the ship’s demise.

“I feel there’s some eerie spiritual power from our stamps that helped the ship go down – or at least predicted it.”

One of the two new stamps showing the ill-fated ship, now carries a one-word statement in English: ‘Done!’ 

That new stamp was officially put on sale to the public –with a million printed and four million to follow — on May 23. Beforehand, in a filmed ceremony inside the presidential bunker, Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky signed and franked the stamp, alongside Smelyansky and the Navy chief.

“Not just because of our special stamps, the Russians would love to bomb my Post Office HQ right here, “said Smelyansky.  “We’re just opposite Independence Square, where pro-Russian leaders were toppled in 2004 and 2013.” 

He says he also kept the place where the stamps would be printed a closely guarded secret, to prevent Russian missile or rocket attacks on it.

Smelyansky set aside a number of first editions to auction online – though the auction  crashed after a few minutes.  He thinks the Russians flooded the sale to disrupt it. 

“The money we now raise will go to rebuilding schools that the Russians have destroyed in their so-called special military operation,” Smelyansky told me. “And to help animals left alone in areas where their owners were forced to flee or died in Russian attacks.”

  On the day of the new stamps’ release, long queues of people determined to get their hands on a maximum of 12 stamps and three special envelopes.  Each envelope was then stamped with a tilting ship in black, or with the name of an occupied part of Ukraine – like Crimea, as if it were posted from there. Even when a warning siren sounded in some locations, “most refused to ‘abandon ship’ to rush to shelters or basements,” Smelyansky said.

In the queue I joined there was pushing and shoving and raised voices from some who believed they should get priority.  But in general people were thrilled – especially when after 7 pm Smelyansky himself came out from the Post Office and signed his name personally on each envelope thrust towards him.  The signing lasted a full three hours, while his military bodyguard was getting more and more nervous.

Finally back in his office, Smelyansky told me he has personally driven an orange-and-white postal van into previously Russian-occupied and Russian-terrorised towns like Bucha and Irpin.

“One woman there who recognised me demanded: ‘Please get me my pension’.  Two days later, it was delivered. That’s what makes it all so worthwhile for me – the impact I can have on people’s lives in an otherwise dire situation.”

All over the country letters and parcels are arriving – and pensions are being picked up at Post Offices — despite wartime roadblocks and Russian attacks. “It gives people a vital lifeline, and even a letter brings a feeling that people have not been forgotten – a sense of stability, as far as it can be,” Smelyansky said.

His vans have even managed to cross into Russian-occupied territory.  Over a hundred post offices were, he said, open in the city of Kherson, a Russian-held port in the south. But the Russians were not allowing letter and parcels in and out – though mainly they did allow supplies of money to pay people their pensions.

Early on in the war one of his clearly marked blue-and-yellow vans was struck by a Russian rocket, killing two of his employees.  Yet he still himself drives a van to dangerous spots – last weekend he was close to the Russian frontlines inside eastern Ukraine.  

Where now?  Smelyansky says he had been planning to make millions of postage stamps showing Vladimir Putin in chains or being dragged away by Ukrainian police, or worse – in the hope that this would somehow bring about or at least predict the Russian leader’s destruction – “just as the Moskva sank, perhaps by some eerie coincidence, two days after we issued the first stamp, could we sink Putin by showing him on a stamp, being dragged away in chains?”  

However Smelyansky was astonished that the 650 thousand people who voted for the next big stamp idea rejected the Putin demise as the theme – giving far more votes to featuring a new media-star:  a de-mining dog called Patron.

Smelyansky says he has taken some decision in trying to revitalise the state institution that made people “hate me – because I’ve done away with some local post offices and introduced many mobile post offices.  Now people are writing to me saying the used to hate me, but they can see how these mobile post offices are giving remote or bombed areas a new lease of life.”

One activity that Smelyansky says brought him most satisfaction was, he says, to get dog kennels and dog clothing delivered from hard-pressed Kharkiv to the UK and USA.  “So I helped keep six families in work – and that’s replicated all over Ukraine.”

Another satisfying success was when, in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine, they sneaked money to a bakery, which gave the cash from sales of bread to the local post office officials, who transformed the money into vitally needed pension payments.

 “My mother and both her parents were top doctors in Odessa, and of course, like many Jewish parents, they had wanted me to become a doctor too.  I hope now though they can forgive me for my ‘failure’.  I’m also doing some lifesaving work.  All I long for now is a holiday with my wife and teenage kids – on a beach somewhere, when this war is over.”

He says most Ukrainian Jews during the Communist era were ‘agnostic’, including his Jewish parents.  “I remain agnostic,” he declares, even though his non-Jewish wife is a believer.  “I respect genuine religion, but not fake hypocrites who go to church like Putin.

 “Anyway,” he quips, “I’ve delegated religion – to my wife.”

Smelyansky says he has had several close shaves in life — the biggest in the USA. When working there he declined to return to a job offered to him by Cantor FitzGerald on the 101st floor of the World Trade Centre  – just two months before the 9-11 attacks killed everyone in that office. ” All you can do is your best, and accept your fate,” he added.

Interview over, I slipped back to my hotel miles away, having to break the 11pm curfew. Smelyansky stayed on in his office – no doubt devising new ways to stamp his unconventional mark on Ukraine’s war effort.

Latest News

Eliminate Russian names from our streets, says Ukraine’s president.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on cities, towns and villages across Ukraine to rename streets and squares to get rid of all references to Russia and to its Communist or Soviet past.

Renaming streets and squares began some years back, but that was aimed at the territory’s Communist past as part of the Soviet Union.   

This week the Kyiv City Council decided to “de-communise” a huge city landmark, the Arch of the Peoples’ Friendship — which refers to the supposedly close relationship between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples.

“Now it is the Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian people,”  the capital city’s mayor, former world champion heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko, wrote on his social media channel.

At the same time, he said the deputies also approved a list of more than 40 monuments and memorial signs that would be removed from the streets and buildings of the capital and transferred to the Museum of Totalitarianism.

 When I drove last week through Lenin Square in Chornomorsk, a port town south-west of Odessa, I found it had been renamed, and the statue of the founder of the Soviet Communist state had been replaced — by a grey lamp-post.

Zelensky, who is Jewish, urged towns and villages to rename streets and squares after righteous Ukrainians who had saved persecuted Jews during World War II.

He made no mention of the atrocities conducted by Ukrainian soldiers or paramilitaries against Jews in that World War — just as he had avoided doing so during his live video-linked speech from Kyiv to the Knesset in March.  That omission, and his apparent comparison of Russia’s current behaviour with the Holocaust, were criticised extensively by Israeli political and religious leaders.

However, Ukrainians have expressed bewilderment that Israel, a state founded as a haven for the persecuted, has not been more supportive of its military needs.

“My advice is to turn to the stories of the Ukrainian Righteous and perpetuate their memory,” Zelensky said in a social media post highlighting a new public holiday, launched last year to commemorate the Righteous.

He said the renaming should take place “because it’s about the courage and humanity of Ukrainians who have already proved that the evil that comes to our land will inevitably lose.”

He said the bravery of people who hid or supported Jews during World War II was now being echoed by many Ukrainians who have taken massive risks in protecting civilians from Russian attack.

Zelensky noted that 2659 Ukrainian men and women had received the title of Righteous Among the Nations, which he said was the 4th highest number of any nation.

He added: “[These were] people who risked their lives, the lives of their loved ones, but still saved those who were threatened with imminent death at the hands of the Nazis. Rescued children, adults, whole families.”
Zelensky said some children who were rescued were too young to know who helped them, adding: “We do not know all the stories of salvation.”
He drew a parallel with Ukraine’s current tenacious fight to avoid domination.

“There was total evil around, and people still kept good in their hearts. It strengthens our belief that humanity will still win [here] despite the occupation and the power of the Nazis [at that time].”

The president ended his comment with the by-now-familiar declaration: “Eternal glory to all our defenders! Eternal memory to all who gave lives for Ukraine! Glory to Ukraine!”

……………………..Below is the comment Z made:

President Zelensky, 14 May 2022

Wise people of our bravest country!

All our defenders!

Last year, on May 14, the Day of Remembrance of Ukrainians who saved Jews during World War II was celebrated in our country for the first time. 2659 Ukrainian men and women received the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Our country is the fourth in the world in the number of the Righteous. People who risked their lives, the lives of their loved ones, but still saved those who were threatened with imminent death at the hands of the Nazis. Rescued children, adults, whole families.

Each of these rescue stories is impressive. It strikes with courage, because there was total evil around, and people still kept good in their hearts. It strikes with belief that humanity will still win despite the then occupation and the power of the Nazis.

The Righteous were in all regions of our state – from Zakarpattia to Crimea, from Odesa to Kharkiv. And we do not know all the stories of salvation. There were many who simply did not have time to tell thanks to whom their life was saved. They also rescued very young children who simply could not understand what was really happening to them.

We must always remember that our people have such Righteous among them and that even in the darkest circumstances there are people who carry light. This is exactly the same striving for good that we see today in Ukrainian men and women who help save people from the occupiers, from the same Nazis.

I am grateful to all journalists and just all caring people who document modern stories of salvation and record for all generations of our people what Ukraine has to go through and how people show their best qualities by saving others – acquaintances and strangers, relatives, children, adults.

I held talks today with a delegation of US senators led by Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitchell McConnell in Kyiv. I believe that this visit once again demonstrates the strength of bipartisan support for our state, and the strength of ties between the Ukrainian and American nations.

We discussed various areas of support for our state, including defensive and financial. As well as tightening sanctions on Russia. I expressed gratitude for the historic decision to renew the Lend-Lease program. I called for the official recognition of Russia as a terrorist state.

One of the issues I deal with on a daily basis is food security. More and more countries around the world are realizing that Russia, by blocking the Black Sea for us and continuing this war, puts dozens of other countries at risk of a price crisis in the food market and even famine. This is another incentive for our anti-war coalition to act more decisively together.

Now support for Ukraine – and especially with weapons – means working to prevent global famine. The sooner we liberate our land and guarantee Ukraine’s security, the sooner the normal state of the food market can be restored.

The situation in Donbas remains very difficult. Russian troops are still trying to show at least some victory. On the 80th day of the full-scale invasion, it looks especially insane, but they do not stop all these efforts.

I am grateful to everyone who holds the line and brings closer to Donbas, Pryazovia and Kherson the same thing that is happening now in the Kharkiv region. Step by step we are forcing the occupiers to leave our land. We will make them leave the Ukrainian sea as well.

By the way, now in many cities and communities of Ukraine there are discussions about renaming streets and squares. My advice is to turn to the stories of the Ukrainian Righteous and perpetuate their memory. Because it is about the courage and humanity of Ukrainians who have already proved that the evil that comes to our land will inevitably lose.

Eternal glory to all our defenders! Eternal memory to all who gave lives for Ukraine! Glory to Ukraine!

Eyewitness Latest News

Butchery at Bucha. An aid worker brings crucial help.

Exclusiv, from Bucha, Ukraine.

Oleksii Tolkachov, 39, is delivering aid to people without food, electricity and heating in Bucha and Irpin, the until-recently Russian-occupied satellite towns north of Kyiv.  They are both now ignominious worldwide symbols of the invaders’ ruthless destruction.   Before we drive in, we pull up at the first of several destroyed tanks.  

It’s a Soviet-made T-72. “Both Ukraine’s army and these Russians use this model,” says Oleksii, “but we know this was a Russian tank because of the V’s painted on it.”  The letters V and Z were used on the invading army’s war machines as they rolled in toward Kyiv from the north, but the Russian forces met stiff resistance. Just behind the tank, 48-year-old Oleksandr is sifting through what remains of his house, which he says was smashed by a tank battle. “Look on the bright side,” he quips. “I’ve only got half a house so the heating bills next winter will be cheaper.”

Oleksandr declines any aid package, saying others more needy should get it.

Further down the road a few locals are clambering over the hulks and gun-barrels of five destroyed Russian tanks, peering inside at charred remains of men and materiel.  The mundane debris remains of those fleeing the burning tanks: boots, military jackets, an electric razor-top.  Inside one tank we see, , alongside a charred corpse, a burnt-out mobile smartphone, almost certainly stolen from an inhabitant of the villages or towns the invaders captured.  (Locals say the Russians, often from poor rural parts, were amazed at and jealous of the ‘luxurious’ lifestyle they encountered in northern Ukraine, and seized anything they could.)

Inside Bucha itself, the bodies of local civilians whose pictures had became infamous just after the Russians pulled out, no longer lie in the street.  But there are several ruined tanks still lining Rail Station Road.  We watch Ukrainian heavy-lifting trucks pulling them up, ready to cart them away for use as scrap metal. 

Clearly locals, or Ukrainian soldiers, believed the invaders of Bucha were ethnically Chechens, from a unit that had become ultra-loyal to the Russians despite Chechen rebels’ own largely-failed battles for independence.  “ Kadyrov is Evil”, using the name of its notorious commander and Putin loyalist, is painted in white on the side of one destroyed tank. 

Oleksii draws up alongside people cooking borsht (beetroot-and cabbage-and potato soup) on an open fire outside their apartment block.  A 5-year-old girl rides alongside on a black-and-white bike with trainer wheels. Oleksii offers her a red-wrapped bar of chocolate – which she refuses.  “I like chocolate, but not this — another kind!” she declares.

The Russian invasion here left thousands to shelter in basements while temperatures were minus ten centigrade and electricity, water and gas were cut.

At the apartment block’s entrance, windows had been shattered “for fun” by the invaders’ gunfire, and a secure door had been riddled with bullet-holes.  In Apartment one Oleksii  is revisiting 83-year-old Ludmila Yurina. She is wrapped in thick coats and wears a maroon headscarf, but is still shivering. When the Russian attack started her son fled to Kyiv and has disappeared.  Alone, and only able to move by wheelchair, she could not shelter in the communal basement. During all the shelling and bombing, she was lodged in the corner of her main room.

When the attacks began, her neighbour two doors down, a 33-year-old actress called Nadia Samokhvalova, was in Kyiv but she returned the moment she heard the Russians had pulled out.

  “Ludmila is like my grandmother,” says Nadia. “I was really worried about her life.  I rushed over here to bring her food and medicines.” 

She sees a silver lining in her new circumstances. “As an actress I have no work in a war situation.  But I can help people.”  From posts on her Facebook account, she’s raised about 5,000 pounds – “that’s huge here, enough to buy a small car.  With the money I buy food and medicine and help whoever I can.”

She says a bitter legacy has been left from the Russian actions here and throughout Ukraine.   

“It was really terrible.  All Ukrainians now will hate them for many years in the future,” Nadia says.

At a nearby house, it’s too late to bring help, Oleksii tell me.  Locals tell him that the house owner and his 15-year-old grandson were shot dead because the teenager took photos of Russian soldiers on a smartphone. The grandfather’s shoes lie alongside a shallow grave. Local authorities have already dug up collected bodies to check for war crimes and then to provide more proper burials.

Cars wrecked by Russian tanks, one with the driver inside, litter the roads, and an abandoned vehicle has a V painted on it. That indicates Russian or Chechen soldiers stole it for a joyride – a champagne cork lies on the front seat.

Ironically, as we leave Bucha, we see a sign near the undamaged rail station advertising a nearby pizza parlour – now clearly unavailable.   An apartment block in nearby Irpin is blackened and shell-pocked, but still bears a red banner declaring: “Apartments for Sale”.

Oleksii vows he’ll be back to support those who still need his aid, physical and emotional. 

On the way back to Kyiv is a mud field with a series of rectangular cardboards on stakes.  One of them simply states: “ April 09 2022, and, in Russian,  ‘Ostanki’. It means: Remains.   

He or she was another unknown victim of this senseless war.


Since our visit, electricity and heating has been restored though water is intermittent.  Oleksii, like all Ukrainians, increasingly struggles to buy petrol to drive his relief vans to where they are needed.  All the people he has been looked after say they are doing well.  Nadia is still unable to resume her acting career – no theatres are open.

Latest News

World Exclusive.

Gen. Oleg Kalugin displays a prized photo from his huge counter-intelligence library in Maryland. It’s in black-and-white and shows Putin shaking hands with Josef Stalin, the murderous Soviet dictator, with various other Soviet leaders and generals looking on. Gen. Kalugin says: “I love it.” He is planning to enlarge it and then frame it.

Photo copyright Paul Martin

Of course it’s not actually factual; it’s a clever photographic mock-up that Gen. Kalugin says he finds “amusing and very symbolic”.

After all, in his world of Counter-Intelligence, nothing is absolutely as it seems.

Kalugin was one of the Soviet Union’s top ex-KGB officers. These days he spends most of his day listening from the US east coast to Russian broadcasts, making contact with influential sources, mainly in Russia, and trying to predict Putin’s next moves.

He says he expects Russian leader Vladimir Putin to order a series assassinations or poisonings in Europe once it has taken control of Ukraine and  Russia has been made into a pariah state.   

General Kalugin told me that, because NATO had not intervened directly inside Ukraine, Putin had continued to see Britain and European governments as a “soft touch”.

“The Russians wouldn’t dare mount assassinations inside the USA, but because Europe is weak, they assess it’s possible to do it there without serious consequences,” he said.

Gen. Kalugin, who was Putin’s boss when the general was in charge of the KGB in Leningrad,  these days spends most of his time listening to Russian broadcasts, making contact with influential sources, mainly in Russia. He feels he can predict Putin’s next moves.

“You need to understand his psyche.  He is a deeply lonely man, and hates rejection.  His family has fallen out with him.  His wife left him, and both his daughters have cut themselves off from him.”

Kalugin said he believes Putin has some deeper personal secrets that drive him to act aggressively.  “I was reliably informed that he has homosexual relations, and has done so since his training days as a young KGB cadet.  He is really not interested in women, even though he creates a image of being a macho heterosexual and has had two children.  It’s all a façade.”

Kalugin produced no evidence to back these claims of homosexuality, but suggested we talk to his ex-wife.

He agrees with psychological assessments, made by the CIA’s Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, that Putin has “delusions of grandeur. and massive megalomania.”

The general said: “Putin is a dangerous man in many ways — for the world and for the Russians themselves.”

He attributes Putin’s aggression as stemming from his low-level KGB standing until he was co-opted into President Boris Yeltsin’s office, and then rose to power as Yeltsin’s surprise successor.  That’s what happens to people who jump from nowhere into the sky and look down, and believe that all must obey his orders.  He has spent two decades consolidating his power and control. That’s him.”

The general is sure Putin will “try his best to install a pro-Russian puppet regime.  But that will only whet his appetite for more.”   This, says Kalugin, helps explain why Putin plans to cling on to power indefinitely.   

He rejects the ideas that Putin may faced internal opposition as sanctions bite.  “Putin is in full control of all the Russian security services and the Orthodox Church, the two main pillars of power in Russia,”   

Kalugin told me he world he still has some high-level sources inside the Kremlin.  Years ago, one of these sources had tipped him off about the Russian’s second-last target on British soil – the former Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko. 

“I called Litvinenko from Moscow and warned him not to make any further public accusations about Putin and his sordid private life – as they were planning to kill him if he kept speaking out.  About six months later, unfortunately, I was proved right.”

Analysts have been puzzled as to why the Russian authorities had allowed a German plane to pick up Alexei Navalny on August 20 2020 from Siberia and fly him to a Berlin hospital. He has just emerged from an induced coma.

“Actually poisoning is a common Russian security tactic, mainly because it’s not easy to uncover – and I should know,” Gen. Kalugin said. “I was present when the KGB leadership agreed to kill Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian dissident based in London and working for the BBC,” he told me.

In an exclusive interview from a hideout in the USA, urged Johnson and other European heads of government to take “tough measures” against Putin – or else the Russian leader will. He accused Western leaders of giving Putin a “free pass” through their many years of weak responses.

“These European leaders are showing him weakness, and Putin is ruthless to any person or country he considers is weak,” said the former head of the KGB’s First Directorate (Counter-Intelligence). “Putin is as ugly now in political actions as he was years ago.”

“Putin should be personally isolated – banned from coming to Europe or anywhere in the West, and any international summits – until he admits his crimes and apologises.  Of course he is too arrogant to do that. 

“That sort of ban would hit him hard personally.

“Breaking diplomatic relations with Russia by Britain, and other European countries would be the next step,” Kalugin suggested.

“When the Russians see Putin has shamed Russia and turned the motherland into a pariah state, this will ruin his reputation inside the country,” Kalugin said.

“Of course he will go on rigging elections, but pressure on him will have an effect.”

Kalugin in front of the Spy Museum (above) in Washington DC, the city where he started his spying career for the KGB, posing as a journalist (below). Photo copyright Paul Martin

Gen. Kalugin, 85, knows a thing or two about Russia’s complex internal security structures, and about the Russian leader himself. Putin used to serve in the KGB under Gen. Kalugin when Kalugin was deputy head of the KGB’s operations in Leningrad, Putin’s home city. 

 “Putin was part of what we called the political police..  

“Putin would come in plain clothes to my secretary and she would usher him in.  He would stand there respectfully and address me like this:  ‘General, please could you sign this?’

” He would never use the term Comrade Kalugin – that was for people who would speak to me who were not from the KGB.

“I must say I did not see him as being particularly talented – just one of the many junior officers.  It was the mayor of Leningrad who was a friend of Yeltsin who singled out Putin as a good reliable lackey for Boris Yeltsin, so Putin got transferred to the Kremlin in Moscow in Yeltsin’s office.”

Putin’s elevation took place at around the same time as pressures mounted on Gen. Kalugin.

“I could easily be in jail right now. I was charged in our military court with treason.  But just then I stood for parliament and candidates for parliament were exempt from prosecution until they failed to get elected. 

“I spoke out against the old system and, to my amazement, got one million two hundred thousand votes in my constituency.  So as a member of the new parliament they could not lock me up.  Later I went to the USA and never came back.”

After he retired Yeltsin said in a Russian newspaper that General Kalugin takes out of a thick file of clippings. “Yeltsin says that he (Yeltsin) had made two big mistakes in his career: One was invading Chechnya, the other was grooming Putin as his successor.  I agree with Yeltsin on that.”

Putin and Gen. Kalugin are now bitter enemies.

 “Putin is becoming more and more dangerous because he is literally getting away with murder or attempted murder,” Gen. Kalugin said from a location on America’s east coast.

“To appreciate why a ban on him would have a strong effect, you need to understand his psyche.  He is a deeply lonely man, and hates rejection.  His family has fallen out with him.  His wife left him, and both his daughters have cut themselves off from him.”

This, says Kalugin, helps explain why Putin plans to cling on to power for at least ten more years.   

“Putin is in full control of all the Russian security services and the order to kill Navalny must have come directly from him.”

Kalugin told he still has some high-level sources inside the Kremlin.  One of these sources had tipped him off about the Russian’s second-last target on British soil – the former Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko. 

“I called Litvinenko from Moscow and warned him not to make any further public accusations about Putin and his sordid private life – as they were planning to kill him if he kept speaking out.  About six months later, unfortunately, I was proved right.”

Analysts have been puzzled as to why the Russian authorities had allowed a German plane to pick up Alexei Navalny on August 20 2020 from Siberia and fly him to a Berlin hospital. He has just emerged from an induced coma.

German scientists say they have conclusively showed that Navalny had been infected with novichok – the same deadly poison used in Salisbury (southern England) on Sergei Skripal, who, many years earlier, had defected to the UK from the Soviet military intelligence, the GRU.

Gen Kalugin rejected suggestions that Putin actually wanted the world to discover the poisoning of Navalny as a sort of grim warning to all who oppose him.

“No, it’s clear that these poisonings were all intended to kill — but without leaving any incriminating evidence. The operations against Navalny and earlier against Skripal just went wrong.

“Actually poisoning is a common Russian security tactic, mainly because it’s not easy to uncover – and I should know,” Gen. Kalugin said. “I was present when the KGB leadership agreed to kill Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian dissident based in London and working for the BBC,” he told

“A poisoned dart from an umbrella killed him on London Bridge.  And no-one would have suspected anything more than a heart attack – except one doctor saw a strange small mark on his skin.” 

General Kalugin was arrested in connection with the Markov murder years later when he flew in to London. But the Russian ambassador intervened and he was set free after a night in a police cell.

“Our embassy got me out of a police cell the next day and I flew back to Moscow. I was not the killer of Georgi Markov.”A replica of the umbrella used to kill Markov.

“All I had done was to sit at KGB headquarters in 1978 with our chief Yuri Andropov [later Soviet Union President] and his deputy. It was his decision – at the Bulgarian president’s request.”

[“The Bulgarian secret service, which was anyway under our control, did not have the expertise to do the job. We did.]

“My department, counter-intelligence, never carried out killings. Our job was to get secret information.”

He went on: “Our science and technology directorate had the weapon designed and constructed in Japan. It was an umbrella that fired a small dart into Markov’s leg. I believe that department still exists.”

He said British security services should have learned lessons after failing to protect defector Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with highly-radioactive polonium in London in 2006. Kalugin said: “He met with his killers more than once without MI5 intervening or giving him close protection.

“It didn’t take a genius to work out Litvinenko’s life was deeply in danger.”

Putin has called Gen. Kalugin an American stooge. The ex-KGB official told “I publicly accused Putin of being a mass murderer for waging war in Chechnya.

“I’ve also had the guts to attack Putin in a book. If I had been living in Britain instead of the US, I would have been dead long ago.”

Kalugin believes Putin could order more assassinations or poisonings against opponents  – whether in Europe or inside his own country – unless European governments hit back against Russia’s latest assassination attempt with tough measures.

General Kalugin told that the president saw Britain and European governments as a “soft touch”.

He said: “The Russians wouldn’t dare mount assassinations inside the USA, but because Europe is weak, they assess it’s possible to do it there without serious consequences.”

Latest News

Injured in the Jenin raid of 2002, a captain overcomes trauma of his own to aid Ukrainian refugees.

Pini Schwartzman, a former captain in an elite IDF combat unit, in training (top) and now in Moldova (above) to help refugees from Ukraine.

By Paul Cainer in Chisinau.

He was severely injured when he lost 13 of his troops in an ambush during the battle for Jenin in 2002.   Now, Captain Pini Schwartzman has been leading a new mission: to aid refugees from the conflict in Ukraine.

“For me, this is taking my life full circle,” Schwartzman told me on the Ukraine-Moldova border.  “When he was three, my late father had to escape from Ukraine during World War Two with his mother.  They were fleeing from Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. 

“In those days Jews could do nothing to help people like my grandfather. Now we have our own strong State and our people can come to the aid of people who need us.

“”Now I’m back at the border he crossed, from Ukraine to Moldova. I’m itching to go in and rescue people.”

Schwartzman, who fought in Jenin and in Lebanon four years later with the elite Givati Brigade, was leading a team of six former IDF soldiers in Moldova. Wounded in battles, they had been sent by Brothers for Life (Achim Le’Chaim), which had been founded in 2009 for injured ex-combat soldiers to provide support to the next generations of IDF soldiers, and to use their experiences for good.

“I know how to approach people.  I can identify with them.  I know how to hug them,” Schwartzman said. “It makes no difference to us if they are Jewish or not.  But I was particularly moved when I supported a 94-year-old Jewish lady who had survived the Holocaust in Ukraine. When we find Jewish refugees, they often cling on to us in tears.”

Captain Schwartzman with a Holocaust survivor from Ukraine

Schwartzman was attending to a 74-year-old man whose shoulder had been dislocated when he fell when he and his wife were running for the bus that would get them out of the war-zone.  

“The man was refusing to go to hospital, still probably traumatised.  So I had to do it myself, even though I had no suitable pain relief stuff with me, just a bandage.   I looked up ‘dislocated shoulder’ on YouTube.  Then I sat on the ground with him, and with my leg I pushed under his arm and yanked his hand hard.  There was a loud click. It worked!”

Another success he chalked up was to identify an old man as a potential heart attack victim.  Brothers for Life and Hatzalah rushed him to a hospital, where a catheter tube was inserted from his thigh to his heart.  It was a heart attack, and the man has survived.

His own experience of suffering PTSD has, says Schwartzman, been of some help.  “I saw a woman, seven months pregnant and with a 4-year-old boy, sobbing uncontrollably by the roadside after her 20-hour bus journey had ended.  It turned out it was from the release of emotions after all she had been through. 

“A Russian-speaking Brother is a doctor, who gave her sedation. “She’s upset that her husband is still in the war-zone, fighting. They have been bombing her town but are not inside. .  And she had to leave behind her very old parents who say they are too old to travel.”

Schwartzman’s own injuries in Jenin were very severe.  He had entered the lobby of a house in the Jenin refugee camp when he radioed for his group to join him. As they were arriving an IED exploded, blasting him unconscious. 

He woke up several days later in an Israeli hospital, to be told that 13 of his platoon had died seconds after the IED.  It had been a trap. As the soldiers backed into the street, gunmen and snipers had fired from rooftops.  Schwartzman survived because he had remained lying inside the house.  

“I got PTSD, but not from Jenin.  It was one month after I returned from Lebanon in 2006, where our Brigade had been fighting near the Litani River.  I was just jogging along the beach in my home-town Haifa when suddenly I burst out crying.  

“I staggered home, but for the next months I was a different person.  I could hardly even communicate with my wife, and could not tell anyone about my feelings or emotions.  I had a psychologist but it did not help.  Gradually though I’ve come right. I returned to work as a government administration official eight months later.

“I’ve learned to recognise the warning signals and to do exercises.   And I can express my feelings and emotions openly to my wife.  I’m a very happy grandfather now. 

 “My wife is still suffering,” he joked. “suffering – from me!”

He added: “My wife is very proud of me for going to the Ukrainian border.  But she now says I’m just too old to do this again.” 

Alongside Schwartzman was a British Israeli who declined to give his surname.  ‘Ben’ had been a lone soldier when he emigrated to Israel from Manchester aged 18, and had been severely burned in a ‘friendly fire’ incident in Lebanon in 2006. 

“When you get hit by the enemy you can usually handle that,” said Pini.  “But if you nearly die from an artillery round from your own side, that’s even more traumatic.”

Pini says he was, and remains, unphased at the thought of going back again, this time into Ukraine’s most dangerous areas, on rescue missions.  “This is my life.  I love danger.  I know that’s not normal, but that’s just me,” he said.


‘Brothers for Life’ adds: Team leader Pini Schwartzman and his team are at the Moldova/Ukrainian border where they have been meeting buses filled with elderly Jewish refugees and children. They’re getting their first real meal in days as well as medical care. They’re also getting life-affirming hugs and being told: ‘We’re Israeli soldiers and we have your back’. 

Schwartzman says: “When some of these Jewish refugees find out we are former IDF soldiers, they literally grab onto us.  It’s very emotional as they are scared and need to feel they are safe.”

A version for the JC:

He was severely injured when he lost 13 of his troops in an infamous ambush during the battle for Jenin in 2002. Now, Pini Schwartzman has been leading a new mission: to help refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

The former elite IDF captain travelled to the Ukraine-Moldova border along with five other ex-army men as part of an operation run by Brothers for Life (Achim Le’Chaim), an Israeli charity that helps wounded ex-troops use their knowledge for the benefit of all.

“For me, this is taking my life full circle,” Mr Schwartzman told the JC. “My late father had to flee Ukraine during the Second World War with his mother. They were fleeing from Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. I’m back at the border he crossed, from Ukraine to Moldova.”

Mr Schwartzman explained how he has applied his battlefield experience to several emergencies in the war zone.

One 74-year-old man had dislocated his shoulder when he fell while running for the bus to escape his bombarded city. 

Mr Schwartzman said: “The man was refusing to go to hospital, still probably traumatised.  So I had to click it back into place myself, even though I had no suitable pain-relief stuff with me, just a bandage. I looked up ‘dislocated shoulder’ on YouTube. ” He also identified an old man as a potential heart attack victim. He was rushed to a hospital. It was a heart attack, and the man survived.

Mr Schwartzman says his own experience of suffering from PTSD has been of some help. He said: “I saw a woman, seven months pregnant and with a four-year-old boy, sobbing uncontrollably by the roadside after her 20-hour bus journey had ended.  It turned out it was from the release of emotions after all she had been through.

“A Russian-speaking ‘Brother’ is a doctor, and he gave her sedation. She was upset that her husband was still in the war-zone, fighting. The Russians had been bombing her town. And she had to leave behind her very elderly parents who were too old to travel.”

Mr Schwartzman added: “I know how to approach people. I can identify with them. It makes no difference to us if they are Jewish or not. 

“But I was particularly moved when I supported a 94-year-old Jewish lady who had survived the Holocaust in Ukraine.   When we find Jewish refugees, they often cling on to us in tears.”

Captain Schwartzman with a Holocaust survivor from Ukraine

In Jenin, Mr Schwartzman had entered the lobby of a house in the refugee camp when he radioed for his group to join him. As they arrived, an IED exploded, blasting him unconscious. He woke up several days later in an Israeli hospital to be told that 13 of his platoon had died. It had been a trap. Gunmen and snipers had fired from rooftops as they backed into the street. Mr Schwartzman survived because he had remained lying inside the house. 

“I got PTSD, but not from Jenin. It was one month after I returned from Lebanon in 2006, where our Brigade had been fighting near the Litani River. I was just jogging along the beach in my home-town Haifa when suddenly I burst out crying. For the next few months I was a different person. Gradually, though, I’ve come right.

“I’ve learned to recognise the warning signals … and these days I can express my feelings and emotions openly to my wife”.

He said he was unphased at the thought going further, this time  into Ukraine’s most perilous areas.

 “I love danger. I know that’s not normal, but that’s just me.”

Eyewitness Latest News

Saved by their animals. A Ukrainian couple tell how their dogs and cats softened the heart of a Russian soldier.

Latest News

In the midst of the Ukraine war, aid and rescue workers have come from afar.

An aid worker in the provisions store in Chisinau, Moldova.
Hatzala rescue worker signals success.
Injured in Jenin in 2002 and suffering PTSD after the Lebanon war four years later, Pini Schwartzman has been one of six former Israeli soldiers injured in combat, from Brothers for Life. They are now helping Ukrainians with physical or psychological war damage.. He was from the elite Givati Brigade.

Analysis Insight Latest News

Racism in reverse?