Editor’s Note: The image and story below were provided by an SGA-supported church in Ukraine.
Here is a story sent to us by SGA-supported Pastor Oleg. He and his congregation in Ukraine are caring for Lyena — and many hurting souls like her who have undergone horrific suffering and attacks. Please lift her up and all of the efforts of our brothers and sisters in Christ as they serve Ukrainians in need.
Lyena shares her harrowing story of survival and escape . . .
It turned out that [a road in a Ukrainian region] became a convenient road for the enemy to reach the capital. It was the road where there were lots of enemy vehicles. The road is very close to our house. We live in [a Ukrainian city], next to a quarry that is no longer functioning. In the last 5 to 7 years a small district has been formed behind the quarry. This area is considered to be [part of our city] too, but it is a bit detached. We could never have thought that our quiet remote area could be the epicenter of the events.
On February 25, enemy vehicles began to drive on the road nearby, and on this day we almost ran into a tank column. We were rescued by a shot car, which was driving, trying to escape, towards us. There were two wounded men and the third one was fine. We helped them to get to the hospital. At that time, we did not know that the enemy vehicles were running near our house.
We returned home, with the hearts full of fear from the things we had seen. But at that moment we didn’t know that it was just the beginning.
We could hear the sound of the engines almost all the time. On February 27 our servicemen started to dislodge the enemy at noon and had been doing that till night. On striking the target, there were large pillars of fire for a few kilometers. The enemy began to flee from the road, and capture our area, which is far from the main part of the town. On the 4th or 5th day of the war, the houses next to the road had been already captured. A raped girl with a slit throat was found in one of the houses. On the first days one man was shot there. The man was my father’s director’s brother. At that time, we were afraid to go outside because there was constant close combat with machine guns and submachine guns. Our artillery tried to knock the enemy out of the area, and the enemy had been firing at our town and civilian’s houses for hours.
We had to run away then on the first or second day, but my mother was at work (she works at the hospital canteen) and she had stayed at the hospital for five days. The situation near our house became even worse and very dangerous. By that time, there was no electricity, running water, gas and telephones were out of range in [our city]. We were worried about the mother as the hospital had been periodically shelled. We didn’t want to leave without her as we could miss her and lose the touch with her.
When my mother returned home, we cried, because another bombardment had started and she had to walk straight through the fire. Praise God for His protection!
A few days later, when my mother returned from work, enemy soldiers visited us for the first time. They were looking for weapons and generators. They checked the phones as well. If the telephones were on, they just broke them. Ours were turned off. There was no electricity, and we couldn’t charge them, therefore they didn’t touch our telephones. On the walkie-talkie they were asked who was in the house.
At that time, our entire isolated area was already under occupation, and our house was the last one, where they had not been yet. They themselves wondered how we could survive, as the houses in our area were damaged by the shelling, because everyone knew that the area was under occupation, and the only thing that could be done was to destroy civilian houses. The invaders lived in the people’s houses in our area.
On that day the occupants thought that our house would be destroyed and they told us to pack and leave. The father asked if we were being taken prisoners, and they said no. They took us to a house far away from ours for safety’s sake, but a day later in the morning a shell hit the house next to this one, where we were.
Almost all the time there were explosions. It is even hard to imagine now what might have happened. It seems to be a real nightmare. It’s a miracle but our building remained intact. We had never prayed so much before, probably never in our lives. And I had never read the Psalms so thoughtfully before, it was the encouragement, that brought tears of gratitude and joy. I realized that only when you walk through the valley of mortal darkness, you learn to completely trust God, and then you are not afraid, because the Lord is with you.
Death was close, but it didn’t scare us. It’s scary to get fatal injuries, and die slowly, and know that no one can help you because you are in a captured area. After a shell hit the neighboring house to the one where we had been taken, we were sent home because there was no safer place.
It was impossible to escape, as they put tanks and enemy equipment in every yard next to our house. There were no tanks in our yard as it was closer to the edge of the town, where our Ukrainian servicemen were and they bombarded the enemy from there.
Two days later, invaders visited us again, but those were different soldiers. They did not take food, did not frighten us either. They said that they did not want that war, because they had relatives in Ukraine. They had to fight as they had no choice, because if they lay down their weapons they might be put into prison as traitors. They said that almost all of them are contract servicemen, and they could retire at the age of 35. The thought about retirement at that age made them happy.
March 11 and 12 were the longest and the most difficult days in our life. Because they were not shooting at the road where the tanks were running, or just in the area where the tanks were, but practically at us, where there were many tanks.
On March 12 my mother said that God had not let her sleep all night, and filled her with the thoughts that we should leave despite the fact that the barrel of a tank or a machine gun is aimed at your back, because there were many snipers among the occupiers.
It was clear that staying there was a danger and death. To stay there meant to tempt God. My mother was about to die, because her heart just couldn’t stand it, as there was not enough oxygen, she was shaking from every explosion, and she started losing her heart. As we had no cellar we had to sleep on the floor. Only few hours of rest during a day, constant explosions made us leave.
In the morning of March 12, we started packing. We had only five minutes to take our documents and money. When we were leaving the house, the tank was standing nearby, but we kept walking without looking back, like Lot was leaving Sodom and Gomorrah. We were walking and the tank started moving. We quickly went into a low-lying quarry, where we couldn’t be seen. At that moment I thought they were following us, but praise God we got out and went to [the city]. All this time we had been without news, and did not know what was happening in our town that by March 13, more than half of the town had been destroyed. Of course, we didn’t know anything about the evacuation. We wanted to stay at someone’s from the church, but there was no one left in the town. We got into one sister’s house and stayed there two days. The bombardment in [the city] hadn’t stopped. We didn’t have food and the parents decided to look for volunteers, but we found the guys from territorial defense forces instead. The guys told us about the situation and that we should flee then, because [the city] was being leveled to land.
On the same day, March 15 we came to the evacuation, but because of a curfew on that day we had to stay in [the city] for one more day. On March 16 we left for [another city].
The bus we were supposed to ride shocked us as soon as we saw it. The windshield was broken, and it was ready to fall out. The other windows were broken too, but they were covered with various cabinet doors. While we were riding there was a non-stop shelling. All of us on a bus were worried and scared. We could see shot cars on the side of the road. But the Lord had mercy on us.
We were welcomed [by church members] at a school building. They gave us food and made beds for us! Praise God for the people who are ready to serve others in need!
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