Russian Aunt Who Raised Orphans to Get Israeli Residency After All

Following Haaretz report, Interior Ministry changes attitude toward woman who dropped everything to raise her orphaned nephews in Israel in 2002.

Elsa Kodrashova with her nephews at home in Haifa.
Gil Eliahu

In the wake of Thursday's Haaretz report, Elsa Kodrashova will receive a residency status allowing her to stay in the country, the Interior Ministry confirmed later the same day.

Kodrashova, 53, has spent the past 14 years in Israel raising her orphaned nephews.

The Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Authority informed Haaretz that "because" of her situation's exceptional and humanitarian circumstances, the authority's director general, Amnon Ben Ami, has decided to award Kodrashova residency status.

"The director general reversed the decision of the inter-ministerial committee that had twice rejected her petition," the ministry announced.

Kodrashova's sister Margarita had immigrated to Israel in 1991 with her husband Alexander, who was entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return. Their two boys were born here. In 2000 Alexander died of a heart attack and two years later Rita also died suddenly. The children, aged 3 and 6, were orphaned with no relatives in Israel.

The Israeli authorities contacted Kodrashova and asked her to come to Israel urgently to look after her nephews. She landed in Israel a week after her sister died.

Since then she has been raising the children. They both call her mother. She left her only daughter, aged 19 at the time, her parents, home and work. Despite this, Israel refused to give her a permanent status and instead issued her a temporary foreign worker’s visa, which must be renewed every six or 12 months.

Kodrashova’s visa permits her to work. But in the absence of permanent status she was unable to become the children’s legal guardian. She is not entitled to government health insurance, and must pay for any medical expenses out of pocket. She was allowed to open a bank account but not to have a credit card.

She has no pension, and over the years she has spent thousands of shekels to renew her work visa every six or 12 months.

In October 2012 Kodrashova applied to regularize her immigration status for the first time, but received no response from the immigration authority. In May 2013, after three additional attempts and threats to take legal action, her case was submitted to an interministerial committee with a request to receive resident status on humanitarian grounds. She attached recommendations from social workers and other officials and the boys’ school.

In December 2014 her request was denied. Fearing deportation, Kodrashova appealed to the Law Review Tribunal in Jerusalem, through the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism’s legal aid department.

The tribunal ordered the Immigration Authority to reexamine Kodrashova’s application. She and the boys were summoned for interviews. Some three weeks ago her request was denied again.