SOCHI - Seven coffins draped with the Israeli flag landed last night in Israel. The coffins were accompanied by the families that managed to identify and bring their loved ones back to Israel for burial after last week's crash of the Sibir Airlines plane into the Black Sea.
Another seven funerals of victims of the disaster will take place in the next few days in Russia.
One body that was recovered from the water has not yet been identified. Members of the police forensics team that returned last night from Sochi, where the identification process began, took samples and will continue to identify the body in Israel.
It seems almost certain that another 63 families will be left with no body, no funeral, no tombstone. Some of them received personal belongings yesterday that had been found among the wreckage of the plane and that may have belonged to a child, a parent or a grandparent. Others will be left with nothing but memories.
The main hall at Sochi airport yesterday was covered with blankets piled with personal possessions that had been pulled from the sea. The families were asked to come and identify them. "We found nothing belonging to my mother, but there were a lot of things - burnt clothes, torn shoes, bags and even photo albums," said Sofia Fiadorov.
Among the belongings Vadim Iakoupov found a shoe that his son, Michael, aged one-and-a-half, had worn. Michael had joined his mother, Lilia, on the flight to Novosibirsk where they were planning to visit relatives. Danile Izbal also found a burnt shoe - the brown shoe that his father had worn during a month-long visit to Israel. He spotted it almost immediately.
Some of the families chose not to seek personal belongings. They said they had endured enough emotional turmoil trying to identify the bodies earlier this week. Those who did go were asked to leave quickly. They signed a form, took their beloved's possessions and returned to the hotel to pack.
Two flights returned to Israel after four days in Sochi, but not all the families returned. Some said they wanted to stay in the hope that further bodies would be recovered. "If we go back now, they will forget us," they said.
The Jewish Agency has promised to help some 30 families who wish to stay on as well as Russian citizens who want to attend the funerals in Israel.
Moscow is trying to reassure the victims' families. A senior official promised yesterday that the search in the area of the crash would continue for another month and that the investigation results would not be whitewashed.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now