Greetings! It was the first day of school in Ukraine on September 1, but children weren’t sharing memories of fun vacations with their families. Their stories were of surviving war. For many, their last day of school was the day before the Feb. 24 Russian invasion of their country.
At least 379 children have been killed since the war began, while the whereabouts of 223 others are unknown, according to Ukraine’s General Prosecutors’ office. Another 7,013 children were among Ukrainians forcibly transferred to Russia from Russian-occupied areas.
Six months of war damaged 2,400 schools across the country, including 269 that were completely destroyed, officials said. Civilian areas and schools continue to be hit, and children keep being killed. But after the first months of shock, 51% of schools in Ukraine, despite the risk, are reopening to in-person education, with an option to study online if the parents prefer.
But safety remains the priority. At schools that don’t have quick access to shelters or are located close to the borders with Belarus and Russia, or near active military zones, children will only study online. Please pray for the safety of Ukrainian children as they start a new school year.
Portraits Of Ukrainian children touched by war
EPISODES FROM THE WAR
The following journal entries are from Pastor Andriy, a HART ministry partner who has had a front-row seat near this theatre of war and shares some extraordinary insights into the pain and suffering this conflict has inflicted on Ukrainians. It also demonstrates the incredible courage and compassion Ukrainian Christians display daily – to help refugees and those living in or near the war zones.
Dear Friends, let me share with you a few episodes from the war. Why? Because we must not forget what is happening in this war and become complacent about it. These ‘episodes’ are just small puzzle pieces of a larger picture of the tragedy that the “liberators” created in my country of Ukraine. -Pastor Andriy
March 29, 2022
We are returning from Trostyanets; a city liberated from the “liberators” two days ago. For a month, they systematically destroyed the town. Please repay them for this, God.
The locals could not believe this was their city. It was inconceivable that their “brotherly nation” (Russia) did this to them. From now on, “brotherly” should always be in quotation marks.
It’s raining in Trostyanets today. People are getting wet, but from early morning they stand in line for humanitarian aid. It was sad to see this long queue of hungry people out in the rain. We brought groceries and gave away three tons in an hour, but it wasn’t enough for everyone.
Lord, give strength to the inhabitants of Trostyanets to survive this disaster.
April 11, 2022
We worked in the Sumy region for about one month, making about ten trips. Between these, we also searched for humanitarian aid to bring to the Donbas region. In fact, this month, we have been in non-stop mode.
We delivered at least 30 tons of aid to the region – groceries, hygiene products, medicines, mattresses, and clothes. Thanks to all everyone who generously helped load our buses. Approximately 5,000 people received assistance.
We were among the first to come with humanitarian aid to the cities just liberated from Russian invaders – Trostyanets, Konotop, Belopolye, Buryn. We made our way to the north of the region – to Glukhov and Shostka.
Today we can say that the mission in the Sumy region has been completed. Life here is getting better. May God stop the “liberators” from “liberating” this region ever again. We tried to combine humanitarian aid with spiritual support. People are open to the Word, to prayer.
We are sincerely grateful to everyone who donated and continues to donate to cover our transportation costs and purchase the things needed for people in the war zone.
Working with local teams of dedicated, sacrificial, hard-working, and hospitable brothers and sisters was a special blessing. You have become very close to us. Thank you heartily for everything!
And the most important. In everything that happened this month, we saw the obvious presence of God. To Him be all the glory.
May 1, 2022
Today I visited New York (a village in the Donetsk region). This NY does not have Manhattan or a 5th Avenue. But there is definitely one attraction here. A church. What is unique about it? Endurance in trials and trust in God.
Today we had Holy Communion in the church. Blessed the Bread and thanked for the Cup. Likewise, without whining or complaining, the brothers and sisters here accept the difficult circumstances of their lives. It was an honor for me to participate in Christ’s commandment together with them.
New York is very unsettled. I saw and heard it myself. Missile strikes from the “liberators” are getting closer and closer. There is a water shortage in the village. Pharmacies are closed. Groceries are still found in some stores, but only in a meager assortment. The produce that I brought, people accepted with gratitude.
Thank you all for your cooperation. Please pray for Ukrainian New York. For peace in Ukraine. For our victory.
May 17, 2022
I visited Novoluganskoe, in the Donbass. As it turned out later, I was able to visit and leave hours before it fell to the enemy. But it was worth it. The small church here has become even smaller. But the flame didn’t disappear.
The brothers and sisters asked me to do Holy Communion. In fact, it turned out to be a full-fledged service. We sang, prayed, delved into the Word, then dined together.
The people were glad of the help that we brought – food and hygiene products. Thanks to everyone who facilitates our trips – with money, produce, and prayers.
Together we have done another good deed. Tomorrow, I have ‘Operation Evacuation’ from New York. We trust God.
May 26, 2022
I am going home – literally for a day. Tomorrow I am driving back to Donbas. They ask – why do you rush back and forth? Why such a hurry? I have several answers to this question:
__Because the war is not over, and the real battle is in the Donbas now. The same horror that occurred in Bucha, Mariupol, Chernigov is happening now in Bakhmut, Liman, and Severodonetsk.
__The situation there is changing rapidly. Where we could travel to a week ago, now it is unlikely to be able to get through at all. Therefore, we must hurry.
__The living conditions for people are getting worse there. There is no gas; there are water supply and electricity supply shortages. And this is in relatively safe cities!
__Probably the main reason…the people that are there. They’re frightened. Sometimes clueless. But are our Ukrainian people. The tragedy will be if they feel that they have been abandoned or forgotten.
So I’m starting early tomorrow morning. And today, we need to buy batteries, flashlights, and candles. We will deliver these in places where all this is in great need because most people live in basements. Many thanks to those who understand the importance of our trips and support us in every possible way.
May 30, 2022
I get my first impressions of the city by smell. There’s a smell of burning – a bonfire is smoldering somewhere. But there are also pleasant smells – food being cooked on an open fire. It seems that people are having a holiday and are barbecuing food.
We drive into the first courtyard, and it becomes clear what the picnics are about. Everyone is cooking food on fires – because there has been no gas supply in the city for two months, not to mention no electricity and water.
Many things are missing here – mobile communications, the internet, shops, pharmacies, transport. The city has apparently been “liberated” from all these benefits.
The whole relaxed atmosphere of campfire gatherings ends with the first missile volleys. Everyone grabs their pots and pans and scrambles into the basements. They show us their dungeons, even with pride – ‘look how coolly we equipped everything here.’ People hide in basements during the day whenever there is shelling and spend every night there.
We drive to the hospital. For the most part, it has lost its medicinal purpose. People whose homes have been destroyed are living there. Today, there are fifteen such people here, mostly older people. The hospital is not a very reliable shelter – several missiles have landed nearby, leaving many broken windows.
The only staff member left is a nurse. She meets us, speaks briefly and to the point. She’s in a hurry and explains that she is busy with a funeral. An elderly man succumbed to his wounds from a bomb. People who die are buried in the hospital yard – there is no way to get to a cemetery.
The nurse turns and leaves. I’m chasing her. “I was a priest in my past life. May I read a funeral service for him?” She agrees immediately. I run to the car and grab a New Testament. Only grave diggers and several residents of the hospital are at the grave.
They almost finished the burial. I ask them to stop for a couple of minutes. I asked what this grandfather’s name was. Nikolay. I read Psalm 23. My voice is trembling. I speak about the valley of the shadow of death. It is here. But we can have no fear of evil if the Shepherd is with us. I pray for the Lord to accept the soul of Nikolay. I pray for those living. I give the New Testament to one of the people there.
It got noisy after lunch. Very ‘noisy.’ The “Liberators” are showing their ‘brotherly’ love. We picked up those who agreed to be evacuated. I have two bedridden people in my car, including a grandmother who is not quite sane. She’s continually asking: “What is this, an earthquake?” – “What earthquake are you talking about? Sleep, grandma.”
The old man seems to be functioning OK. He says he can’t wait to leave this hell. He has a weak bladder. We have to stop often. All the plastic bags that were in the car came into play. We arrive on the “mainland” late in the evening. To date, the mission has been completed. Thank God.
June 9, 2022
She stood on the doorstep of her house. Cried into her scarf. Locked the door. Although – what for? But it’s like a ritual she has been doing all her life. She was showing respect for her home.
One last time she glances back to look at her house, or rather, what is left of it. She gave water to the dog, picked up a couple of bags from the ground, and slowly walked towards the minibus.
Once our journey began, she did not stop talking the entire trip, jumping from one topic to another. “My first job was here. I worked as a saleswoman. My future husband began to come to see me here. And this is my school. They destroyed it.
You know, we had such a good village; life was vibrant here. “But I don’t have slippers. Will I find some slippers where we are going?”
It is really a ‘faceless’ word when we talk about ‘evacuations.’ Just ponder this story for yourself. Especially those in Europe who are tired of the war. And those who say, “it’s complicated; we should reserve judgment
as to who is guilty in this war.”
June 11, 2022
“Are you taking pictures of me? Can I see the picture? I hope I look good there.” That’s how we met. This grandmother is 80. Her home was destroyed, so she lives in the basement of a building.
She obtains water every day with a bucket or bottles. The city has been without water for three weeks. The Russians bombed the power supply of the pumping station, and there was no way to repair it – because the shelling was continuous.
Another woman shares her ‘life hack’: “I don’t leave the house without an empty bottle. If I notice water is being delivered somewhere – I will be able to bring home at least 5 liters.”
Let’s try to imagine ourselves in such circumstances. Summer, heat. No possibility to take a shower, no chance to wash clothes, and no opportunity to use the restroom normally. That’s why we are so committed to delivering water to these people.
June 17, 2022
The answer to why we keep coming here is pretty simple: People live here. How they ‘live,’ though – you can see for yourself.
People need bread. And they need water and much more. They need to feel God’s love through us. So, we make our way here to help. People – to people. To our Ukrainians. It seems to be the right thing to do. And to God be all the glory.