An article on YNET about Victor and Ela – they survived the Holocaust but are barely surviving in Israel

Victor and Ela survived the Holocaust but barely manage to survive in Israel: Victor survived the horrors when he fled Belarus on foot with his mother and sister. He has since been in Israel with his wife Ela for 30 years. The two always worked hard to support the family, but after Ela was diagnosed with cancer and they ran into financial difficulties. “Our house is old, we can’t afford to repair it,” they admitted in pain. Do not throw us away: a special project in preparation for the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.


The walls of Victor and Ela Orhai’s apartment are full of mold and moisture that has accumulated over the years. In their bedroom the paint is peeling off and the modest contents are stored in a small plastic closet. “We can’t afford to fix it,” says Ella in pain, “it is an old house, we are breathing mildew and mold.”

Victor, 81, a Holocaust survivor, was born in Belarus. During World War II he fled the Germans with his mother and sister until they reached northern Russia. “For months we ran away by foot, my mother did everything she could to keep us alive,” he says.

About 30 years have passed since Victor immigrated to Israel with his wife Ella (74) and their two daughters. They moved to Beit Shemesh with many common dreams and great hope for a better life. “We are both musicians,” says Ella with a smile. “But when we came to Israel I started working as a beautician and Victor as a piano tuner.” Throughout their lives, the couple worked hard to support the family, but had no idea that in old age they would find themselves in an ongoing economic struggle.

Victor and Ela
Victor and Ela Orhai in their apartment. “We do not like to say that we’re struggling” (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

About two years ago a cancerous pancreatic tumor was discovered in Ela’s body.

Ever since, she has been fighting for her life, undergoing chemotherapy treatments and longing for a drug that can save her. But this couple cannot afford to purchase the treatments that may make it easier for her to live.

“There is a medicine that helps me a lot with nausea but I am not entitled to it. One capsule costs NIS 250, and I need about two a month. It is NIS 500 a month and we do not have that money,” she says, adding: “There is also a chemical treatment intended for the tumor itself. “It is not in the medicine basket and it’s stronger and more effective than what is in the basket. I have tried three types [of treatments] so far. This treatment costs NIS 5,000 a month and we can not pay for it. That’s all of the money we live off of in a whole month.We live on allowances and that money goes to, among other things, payments for food, bills and taxis to treatment. At the end of the month, there is not enough left for medicine.”

Luckily for the Orhai couple, they have two girls who help them as much as they can. One lives in Canada and the other takes care of them in her spare time. “We do not like to say that we are struggling, but we would want to be in a better state,” Ela emphasizes, “It is a small country, difficult to divide and aid everyone. But I am sorry to know that a lot of money goes to people who do nothing for the country. None left for health, education and other social matters”.

The case of Victor and Ella is not infrequent.

Like them, there are many other Holocaust survivors who live in poverty and are neglected. Some live in houses unworthy of a human being, some cannot afford basic things like food and medicine and some are forced to spend their final years in abysmal loneliness. Many of them do not know and recognize their rights and hence do not demand to receive them.

Just last month, it was revealed in Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth that tens of millions of shekels a year, which were supposed to reach Holocaust survivors, actually remained in the state coffers and were not transferred to them. Even now, after the exposure, government officials say that no progress has been made on the issue with the Ministry of Finance, and the funds are still not being transferred to the survivors.

In the upcoming weeks before the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be marked at the end of the month, we will continue to show their faces, make their voices heard and shout the cry of Holocaust survivors who live in Israel and deserve a better life.

Donate and SAVE Victor and Ela Orhai:
Visit the Chasdei Naomi website or call us: +972-3-6777777 


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