My story starts just like any ordinary immigrant’s story. I was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, in a secular family. I knew absolutely nothing about Judaism, except for the fact that Israel was the most-hated nation in the world. When my family and I immigrated to the United States, we continued our non-religious path as before. I married a non-Jewish man, and have my two children from this marriage. 

One day my sister told me about a free trip to Israel organized by the Jewish Women Renaissance Project (JWRP). I signed up for it and got selected. The trip was only for 8 days. The first 7 days of the trip were amazing. I learned so much about my heritage, and about Judaism. The lectures that I heard, the sites I visited were absolutely breathtaking. I fell in love with Israel, with Jerusalem, with my heritage. I remember thinking to myself, this is it, this is what I’d been searching for…

On the last day of our trip, as we were all packed and ready for our journey back to our families, we had an extra few hours to do some last-minute souvenir shopping. As we were walking back to the hotel, crossing the street, I saw a bus skidding down the road backwards. I was with another woman and we knew instantaneously there was no way for us to escape it. It was a split of a second. We both got hit.

I ended up under the bus, after the hit. It dragged me with it all the way until it hit the nearby building. I remember tumbling under the bus, screaming, “Stop, stop, stop.” Of course, no one could hear me. When we finally came to a stop, I saw a whole bunch of people gathering around me…some holding my head, some talking to me, trying to help. I was on my back. Everything was hazy. I remember the pain…the paramedics were there within seconds…I got injected with something (most likely morphine), my clothes were being cut away…and I was still lying on the ground thinking to myself why aren’t they taking me to the hospital? One of the guys that was hovering over me must have understood what I was thinking, or I may have uttered it out.  I don’t remember. He said to me, “Don’t panic, but the wheel of the bus is still on top of you. We can’t get you out.” While I was pinned under the bus, we had to wait for the fire department to come and jack the bus to get me out. 

I was taken straight to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem where I was finally sedated. A brilliant team of doctors received me. I had a crushed pelvis, lost a lot of skin and muscle tissue to the bone. The internal injuries I sustained were catastrophic. I was told that most people in my condition leave the hospital in a body bag. My arms, my legs, my head, my neck all had deep cuts and bruises. They didn’t know what to do with me at first. They had to stop the internal bleeding. They injected me with a solution to stop the internal bleeding that hasn’t even reached the United States yet. They opened my abdomen and closed off the bleeding arteries. Then, they had to put my body back together. They said I had an open pelvic fracture; it was like a jigsaw puzzle. G-d was watching over me. If it wasn’t for the brilliant doctors at Hadassah, I wouldn’t even be alive, let alone walking. I spent over 8 weeks in the hospital. 

I was in the ICU for first three weeks, because of the unstable condition I was in. The last five weeks I spent in a private room at Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem. Because of my open wounds and a very high risk of infection, a private room was necessary. The staff at the hospital couldn’t have been nicer. They were so compassionate and understanding. They knew I didn’t speak the language, so they sent nurses to me who spoke either English or Russian (my native language). They did everything to make me feel at home. I noticed how Jews and Muslims worked hand in hand together to save people’s lives. It was amazing. 

I don’t have that many relatives in Israel, so my husband flew in and stayed with me for the entire time. I was in and out of anesthesia, and on a lot of pain killers. But I do remember that I had about 4-5 groups of people visiting me almost every day. These were just people that heard about the accident and wanted to be there for a fellow Jew. Everyone wanted to help. I remember thinking to myself, the most hated nation in the world? Look at them. They are the most loving people. So many came to visit a complete stranger in the hospital out of solidarity. That’s amazing. 

I will never forget the kindness of the hospital staff and that special care that was provided to me at Hadassah. I know they saved my life. Today, 5 years later, I go out running almost every day and attend boot camp classes. Miracles do happen. I thank G-d for putting me in the hands of Dr. Bala Miklosh and the rest of the Hadassah Hospital’s amazing staff.

Watch the video which documents Liana Alvarez’s amazing recovery at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem.

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  • Liana Alvarez was born in the former Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States at age 18.  After receiving a Criminal Justice degree at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Liana now works as a National Import Specialist with the U.S.  Customs and Border Protection. Liana and her husband, Angel Alvarez, have two children, Jonathan, 17, and Juliet, 11.