Israeli footballer describes harrowing experience of fleeing Ukraine

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Israeli footballer describes harrowing experience of fleeing Ukraine

Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Manor Solomon escaped to Poland with help of the Israeli Foreign Ministry before flying home to Kfar Saba

Jeremy Last is assistant web editor at the Jewish News. He lives in Israel, and is currently in his second stint at the JN, having worked for the paper back in the early 2000s!

Manor Solomon posted on Instagram about getting out of Ukraine
Manor Solomon

An Israeli football star playing in Ukraine has described the harrowing 25-hour journey he endured as he escaped to Poland following the Russian invasion.

Manor Solomon, who moved to Champions League side Shakhtar Donetsk in 2019, was shocked to find himself in a war zone after the Russian army began bombarding the Ukrainian capital Kyiv last Thursday morning.

Originally based in Donetsk, Shakhtar have not played in the city since the conflict with Russia began in 2014. This season they are playing in Kyiv where Solomon has been staying in a hotel.

After consulting with team officials on Thursday morning, the 22-year-old midfielder decided to flee alone, catching a ride to the Polish border which ended up taking 15 hours.

He then waited for more than 10 hours in freezing temperatures before a rescue vehicle organized by the Israeli Foreign Ministry finally took him across to safety in Poland.

Solomon is now back in Israel with his family in Kfar Saba, but was clearly shaken by the experience.

“My heart goes out to the people who are still there and unable to get through, I wish I could help,” he wrote on Instagram. “My heart is with the Israeli and Ukrainian citizens who are still stuck in the country and of course with all my teammates, take care of yourselves.”

Solomon, who has played 26 times for the Israeli national team, detailed the shocking experience in an emotional social media post.

“On Thursday morning I woke up to the sound of explosions and alarms and I immediately contacted the team and my friends from Kiev,” he wrote. “After realizing that I had to take care of myself I decided to set off and at 18:30 I was picked up by a friend’s Ukrainian driver.”

The former Maccabi Petah Tikva youngster said he did not know what to expect when he left Kyiv.

“The road was very long with crazy traffic jams and panic of people fleeing. Traffic laws seemed to just be a recommendation and petrol stations were blown up. After more than 15 hours of hard driving, the driver dropped me off near the border with Poland in the hope that I would be able to cross.”

When he finally arrived at the Polish border he was greeted with what he described as chaos.

“At the border there were tens of thousands of people, women and men with families and crying babies standing with suitcases in the freezing cold, in great uncertainty.

“When I saw that the queues were not progressing and that I was stuck in the same spot, I realized that nothing was up to me and I was just waiting for an Israeli rescue vehicle that might be able to rescue me.

“After more than 10 hours of queuing with luggage in a crowd of people, the phone call I was waiting for arrived and I was happy to get into a car that had another Israeli family rescued, and together we crossed the border. Huge thanks to everyone who tried their best to help me, really appreciate it.”

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