Rambam Health Care Campus Nursing Administration employee Masha Bozhko speaks to the Israeli Hebrew-language news site “ynet”, sharing how she decided to rescue the son of her childhood friend from the war zone in Ukraine.
Alexander “Sasha” Artushenko, a 16-year-old boy from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, has been left alone at home since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His parents are senior surgeons, working around the clock in the city’s hospitals to treat patients wounded by Russian attacks. In recent weeks, he has been exposed to the devastation that the Russian army has inflicted on the city.
Masha Bozhko, a resident of Kiryat Motzkin and Project Coordinator in the Nursing Administration at Rambam Health Care Campus, is a childhood friend of Natasha, the boy's mother. “After the war broke out, I was in touch with my friend every day. When I saw on the news what was going on in Kharkiv and realized that Natasha and her husband were in the hospitals all the time, I asked her for Sasha's phone, and I talked to him on a daily basis. I felt the experience was very difficult for him,” recalls Masha.
Masha grew up in a suburb of Kharkiv, where she met Natasha. “We studied together from first grade. She is from a family of doctors, and she is also a doctor and director of the pediatric surgery department,” Masha said. “The hospital where she works was bombed and suffered very severe damage. Kharkiv is a very large city and was simply being wiped off the face of the earth.”
Masha immigrated to Israel in 1992, but her connection with Natasha continued. “At first we corresponded in letters, but thanks to the Internet, we write and talk. Several years ago, Natasha and Sasha visited me here in Israel, and on the 20th anniversary of our graduation, I visited them.”
During one of Masha's discussions with Sasha during the fighting, Sasha said he was interested in getting out of Kharkiv, and asked if she could help him. Following the conversation, Masha checked online to find out what needed to be done to bring him to Israel and realized she needed to pay a guaranty. The next day, Masha spoke with Natasha and asked if she wanted her to bring Sasha to Israel and she said yes.
“It was clear to me that a child on his own would not survive on the road. However, they have a family friend who is Israeli. He decided to return to Israel from Ukraine and agreed to bring Sasha with him in the event that I agreed to take him. I didn’t hesitate for even for one second,” states Masha.
From the moment she made the decision to bring Sasha to Israel, Masha dealt with bureaucratic challenges. “Twice, I arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport and was told that without a notary document from Ukraine, I would not be able to accept the child. I told them that in a country that is being bombed, it is not possible to get a notary now.” Eventually, Masha turned to a lawyer who spoke to Sasha's mother and wrote an affidavit confirming that Masha could take him.
“I returned to the airport the next day, waited in line for two hours and gave them the documents. Here, too, it did not end. I was told that the boy's passport had expired. I called everyone I could. In the end I received assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” Sasha traveled from Ukraine to Moldova, and from there flew to Israel on a rescue flight.
Since arriving in Israel, Sasha has been worried about his parents, and shares the events he witnessed and the terrible difficulties he faced. Masha wants him to get professional help through a portal for psychological assistance in Russian. However, Masha notes that, “he is sitting in our living room with a smile on his face and that is the most important thing. He slept in bed for the first time without hearing any shelling. My children were waiting for him, and we are very excited that he arrived. His mother told me what he likes to eat.”
Masha says that Sasha is a lovely boy. “He is totally Ukrainian, and he wants to go back there at the end of the war. He dreams of becoming a pilot. Open your heart,” adds Masha. “Anyone who can help should help. These people are going through great suffering. We could have been in their place, too.”