By Sharon T. Markey
September 18, 2022
We met Grandmother Lena at a lunch for Ukrainian refugees that we catered at a church in Győr, Hungary. Grandmother Lena is from the city of Zaporizhzhia in Eastern Ukraine. Shelling, the possibility of a Russian takeover of the city, and the very real danger of shelling causing a major nuclear disaster at the nearby nuclear power plant all make Zaporizhzhia extremely unsafe. Grandmother Lena escaped to Hungary with her daughter and her daughter’s two sons, ages 1 and 13.
The daughter found work at a factory, and Grandmother Lena takes care of the baby during the day. The family shares two beds in a hostel. The daughter’s job provides her with one bed, and she pays half of her monthly salary for a second bed. The family barely manages to survive on the rest of her salary. Grandmother Lena says she needs to get a job to help make ends meet, but if she does, they will have to figure out child care. The groceries, toiletries, and school supplies we were able to give them seemed like an insignificant gesture in the face of the great difficulties they face.
A man from the church that hosted the lunch heard their story and said that they are paying too much for their lodgings. We pray that he will be able to help them find more affordable accommodations and that more locals will become aware of the plight of the refugees in their midst and will be moved to help.
By Sharon T. Markey
September 4, 2022
Today we went to the Hungarian city of Sárvár to distribute aid to a number of Ukrainian families living there.
One of the refugees we met was a lady named Tetiana. She is from Papasna, a Ukrainian city next to the Luhansk People’s Republic, one of two regions where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian army since 2014.
Papasna came under heavy shelling early in the war, and Tetiana and her two children had to shelter in a basement for a month and a half. When the Ukrainian army was finally forced to retreat from the city, they discovered this family in their cellar hideout and helped them get safely out of the city. Eventually they ended up in Hungary, where they are trying to rebuild their life. Papasna has been destroyed, and they have no home to go back to.
Tetiana has a job in Sárvár assembling coffee makers, and her boss helped her find part of a house to rent. She asked her landlord if she could have a plot of land for gardening, and he gave her permission to use half of the backyard. Ukrainians love to garden, and she soon had a flourishing vegetable garden. Her landlord was so impressed that he told her to use the entire yard! Now she is sharing fresh produce with all the neighbors, enriching those around her, even though she has lost everything herself.
By Sharon T. Markey
During the spring of 2022, a group of courageous men from churches in a city in Eastern Ukraine were risking their lives to take aid into Mariupol and bring people out. The humanitarian situation in Mariupol was hellish. For weeks people had been living under constant shelling, without food or water, and with no place to bury their dead. When these men would arrive with food and water to distribute, the desperate people would almost be fighting over the supplies.
On one trip, after distributing the aid they had brought, they were loading up their vehicles with people to evacuate, and one man approached them with a wild look in his eyes. He had a pocket full of gold items that he was offering in exchange for them to drive about two miles to pick up his family and evacuate them. The drivers assured the desperate man that they would get his family—and told him they didn’t want his gold.
Once the drivers had gotten everyone safely out of Mariupol, they took these shell-shocked people to their church. The sign above the door read “People are More Valuable than Gold,” which is actually the name of the church. Inside there were tables with food set out on them. Amazed to see bread after weeks without it, the man with the pocket full of gold asked hesitantly if he could have some. “Of course!” they told him warmly, and he finally understood that everything—from his family’s rescue to the food before him—was free, a beautiful picture of the gospel.
By Sharon T. Markey
This is a story about ordinary men who accomplished something extraordinary. While the world was watching the terrifying drama of the seige of Mariupol unfold, these brave men were doing something to relieve the suffering and get as many people to safety as possible.
From the first days of the war, many courageous Ukrainians were ready to drive into hot zones to deliver aid and evacuate civilians, but they needed vehicles. Through many contributions from churches and private individuals, we were able to supply the funds to purchase a number of vehicles during the early weeks of the war—from cars, to vans, to larger cargo vehicles.
Four of these vehicles went to a church in an eastern city. They had been busy taking aid and evacuating people from hot spots all around them, but they had a burning desire to go into the captured city of Mariupol. The chance presented itself in late March 2022, when a member of the church successfully drove into Mariupol in a small 5-seat sedan. He encountered a car whose occupants were stranded without fuel. After he gave them fuel, the 2 cars managed to get a total of 17 people out of Mariupol that day! Inspired by his success, the next day a group of men from several churches loaded up their vehicles with food and water and prepared to go to Mariupol. A newly-acquired van that we helped them get was part of that caravan.
These drivers had a harder time than the driver the previous day. They made it into the city, but they were told they would not be allowed to leave until after the weekend. Once in the city, they came under sniper fire, and a bullet actually grazed the side of one driver’s neck, but not one else was hurt. They passed out the aid they had brought, and after the weekend they were allowed to take people out of the city. After that, they focused their efforts on Mariupol and ultimately evacuated 2,500 people!
Eventually 4 of these heroes were imprisoned by the Russian occupiers, and another 3 were presumed dead after Russian soldiers opened fire on the vehicle they were in, completely riddling it with bullet holes. As a result, they were forced to discontinue trips to Mariupol, but they continue to do all they can to alleviate suffering in other places.