Jewish teen escapes to Canada after surviving three wars in Ukraine and Israel

Yeva Korotkykh, 17, had to move twice when conflict erupted in Ukraine. She was living in Israel the day Hamas attacked

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On her eighth birthday, May 28, 2014, Yeva Korotkykh moved with her family to a new city.

It wasn’t a celebratory move. The little girl had been living in Donetsk, in the Donbas region of Ukraine, when Russian-backed separatists seized government buildings there.

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War had come to Korotkykh’s doorstep, and so the family moved some 300 kilometres to the northwest, to the city of Dnipro.

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“I needed to grow up so fast,” she says today. “My parents told me about the war, and told how I needed to save myself if something should happen. So at eight years old I knew how I needed to save myself.”

Korotkykh would celebrate seven more birthdays in her new home, until 2022. That was the year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24. It was time to move again.

In March, Korotkykh left Dnipro for Moldova, a country further west. A month after that, she was attending a boarding school in Natanya, a coastal city in Israel. She celebrated her 16th and 17th birthdays there, surrounded by friends, many of them fellow Ukrainian Jews.

Then war found her a third time, on the morning of Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel.

“All the girls woke up when we heard the sirens in our city,” Korotkykh recalls. In the city, and in their phones as well. Clashes with Gaza had taken place over several days in August of 2022, prompting the students to ready themselves for further hostilities.

“So we have an app,” says Korotkykh. “We heard the sirens in our phones.”

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She was lucky to have family in Canada; her father’s brother Dmytro lives in North Bay. Many of her schoolmates did not have anywhere else to go, and remain in Israel. Five of Korotkykh’s six siblings still live in Ukraine, where the war with Russia is now in its 21st month.

“I’m very happy that here I have a family,” she says. “They are my support right now.”

Uncle Dmytro met her at the Toronto airport 10 days ago. He hadn’t seen her since he left Ukraine in 2019.

“I had no chance to travel back to Ukraine,” he says, because of hostilities there. “So for years I have not seen any of my relatives.”

Korotkykh is in Canada on a visitor’s visa, and attending classes online back in Israel, which is not easy since that country is seven hours ahead of North Bay’s time zone. Her uncle is hoping she can get a permit to allow her to attend classes here.

“She could go to school with my kid,” says Dmytro, who has a 15-year-old daughter and two sons aged 12 and seven. “I think it would be good and convenient for everybody.”

Korotkykh would like to go back to Israel, just as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“I want to become a psychologist, and I want to open my studio where I can have my clients,” she says. “I want to open in Israel.”

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Says her uncle: “She came to Canada only because of war, but she was thinking to finish school in Israel and start her life in Israel. Now we are thinking about the best plan, and what we should do.”

Until then, North Bay is a sanctuary, far from the world’s conflicts. “Here is a small but really convenient and beautiful city,” she says, adding: “I really like the forest, and in Israel there is not a lot. I’m enjoying it here – but it’s so cold for me!”

But the best thing about North Bay? “It’s silent,” she says.

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