Returning from “Exile” to Serve Romania’s Ukrainian Refugees

By Matt Schiavenza

Managing Editor

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(SideXSide Studios for HIAS)

Since the beginning of full-scale war in February 2022, more than 130,000 refugees from Ukraine have settled in Romania. Once their basic survival had been assured, they have faced the enduring challenge of displacement — as well as a growing sense that they may never be able to return home. 

“When we think of refugees, we think of it as a temporary thing,” said Yiftach Millo, director of HIAS Romania. “But it can also mean displacement for a second or third generation.” 

For Millo, this point is more than just academic. Born in Israel, he is the son of Romanians who left during the mass deportation of the country’s Jewish population in 1941 and grew up listening to stories about the Danube and the Black Sea. Now, after a career working with refugees around the world, he has returned to a place that has loomed so large in his family’s history. 

“I have a deep notion of exile,” he said. 

Two years after the onset of full-scale war in Ukraine, HIAS Romania continues to help forcibly displaced Ukrainians achieve economic self-sufficiency and mental health support. It is work that HIAS’ identity — and the personal stories of people like Millo — is especially suited for. 

“The Jewish voice is extremely important,” said Millo. “Because today you are the refugee — and tomorrow it’s me.” 

Watch the above video to learn more about Yiftach Millo and HIAS Romania’s work with refugees from Ukraine. 

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