Ukrainian refugees celebrate Purim in Berlin as war drags on

BERLIN (AP) — Hundreds of refugees from Ukraine celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim in Berlin Tuesday dressed in colorful costumes and dancing to loud Israeli music.

They danced, drank and ate together with hundreds of other members of the German capital’s Chabad community that organized the party in a hotel. Many of the Ukrainian refugees at the Purim party were students and young children, among them dozens of orphans who fled from Odesa a year ago.

“A year ago these kids were sitting in the bunkers, rockets falling on them,” said Yehuda Teichtal, a Berlin rabbi and head of the local Chabad community who had helped their escape from the war in Ukraine.

“Now they’ve found a new home, are studying German, learn new skills, and also learn how to help themselves,” he added.

Teichtal, wearing huge orange sunglasses and a glittery silver cap, danced with some of the refugee children in circles as Israeli singer Ishay Lapidot performed popular Purim songs on stage.

The holiday of Purim marks the victory of Jews over a tyrant in ancient Persia and is traditionally celebrated with costumes and parties.

Germany has given shelter to more than 1 million Ukrainian refugees since their country was attacked by Russia over a year ago. Among them were thousands of Jews including several Holocaust survivors.

Around 80 Jewish Ukrainians who were taken in by the Chabad community recently returned to their hometown of Odesa, but hundreds of others remain in Berlin.

Among them are Gabriel Hrykoriev and Elisheva Tkachenko, a young married couple who fled to Berlin a year ago. They finished university in Odesa before the war started and decided to stay in Berlin to finish their German language degrees and then look for jobs.

Still, even as they joined the Purim party, the war in Ukraine was always on their mind.

“We are talking to our parents on the phone every day,” said Tkachenko, whose family is from Kherson and whose parents decided to stay in Ukraine despite the war.

“Actually, I’m a bit sad today because I have to think of all the happy Purim celebrations when I was a child,” she added with a sad smile. “Back then our families were having so much fun together and there was no war.”

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