The 60 Ukrainian teens in Malki Bukeit’s care have faced things most of us can’t even imagine.
Their parents couldn’t care for them so they bounced around foster homes. Many were abused or neglected. And then their country went to war.
“They come from very difficult backgrounds,” said Malki, who runs a Children’s House with her husband, Rabbi Zalman Bukiet, and cares for these orphans. “Their parents can’t really take care of them for various reasons. In Ukraine they lived in a foster home with us.”
They would visit their families throughout the year, but it was hard for them to be there. Once the war started in Ukraine, the Bukiets arranged to rescue the orphans and bring them to Israel.
“We are taking care of everything they need here in Israel,” she said, including housing, education, clothing, medical care and therapy for the past year.
Under the Bukiets’ care, 14-year-old Shana went from being severely depressed and withdrawn to loving her life.
“I made such good friends,” Shana said through her tears after her middle-school graduation ceremony. “I loved my school. My life is so different now.”
Malki is visibly moved at seeing the fruits of her labors.
“To hear these words from her, I said, ‘wow, she feels connected.’ Of course, she’s not leaving us, but it’s a transition,” said Malki.
Malki and her husband tried to convince the children’s families to come to Israel also, so they wouldn’t have to remain in war-torn Ukraine and could still see their children. Some of the mothers came, but most didn’t. So the children have no relatives in Israel.
“The adjustment is so hard, the language and culture, they didn’t get to prepare, it was sudden. A war broke out and we took a small bag and ran away.”