Editor’s Note: The images below were provided by an SGA-supported church in Poland
The shelling, the bombing, and constant destruction during the Ukraine war has changed the people for the rest of their lives. And it is not stopping soon.
Raisa is one of those who has suffered greatly. Although her story ends well, it is filled with heartbreak. May we never take a single day of peace for granted, for even in our hardest day we seldom experience the horror the Ukrainians are presently enduring. Here is her story as shared from an interviewer at an SGA-supported church in Poland . . .
Raisa , 68
Raisa appeared first to be reluctant, saying: “I won’t tell anything, I don’t want to recall it! It’s terrible! It was hell, I tell you! If you want to understand what happened there, you have to see it firsthand! No one can possibly understand me.”
Then, nevertheless, she began speaking, glancing from one thing to another, tensely. These were bits and pieces of terrible stories about people in [her hometown] and her and her husband’s story. I had to write quickly, without interrupting Raisa, so that she would carry on pouring out her heavy pain:
“On February 24, there were explosions in [a district of our city in Ukraine]. Explosions also took place near the airport. Then the shelling began, and we would hide in the basement, as we lived on the first floor of a high-rise block. The basement used to be a locksmith shop before the war.
In three days, we were cut from water, gas, electricity and mobile service. And there was shelling after shelling. People would go to the store, just to buy some groceries and came under fire. Eight people were killed. Then there were more and more dead and wounded. Our neighbor’s young son was killed by a shell fragment. And many more died under other circumstances and lack of medicines, water and food. Another of our neighbors buried her family one after another: her husband’s heart failed, and a child with diabetes died from lack of water . . .
Every day, we stayed in the basement in the night, going up to the apartment only to get some groceries. We cooked on fireplaces arranged in the yard, trying to make it fast, until the shelling started. Windows in our house from the side of the entrance were all shattered . . .
In the end of March, intense shelling took place in our area 5 am to 9 pm until dark. They were fighting continuously. We could not leave the basement even for a minute, not to mention cooking. People ate dry food left in the basement. We had no bread. Across from our house, a school building, rebuilt just before the war, was bombed. They bombed the kindergarten and the surrounding houses, leaving ruins. On April 3, a shell hit our apartment and destroyed our place. We survived by a miracle. My husband was trapped under the rubble. Only after a while, our neighbors pulled him out from under it. Nevertheless, he didn’t survive and died soon.
For entire 40 days, we stayed in the basement. People would run in short bursts under shelling to get some water. It was a nightmare! Even during the shelling, people would get out of the basements to escape from this horror. On that day of our evacuation, the [opposition] continued to bombard us with shells from 5 am to 9 pm. My friend and I sat in the basement all day long, hugging each other, and we were praying unceasingly: “Lord, have mercy! Lord, save us!” We prayed that the wall and ceiling would not fall because of shelling of the basement. God heard us. We survived.
That day we all tried to escape, climbing out through a small window. The men had to simply push one woman out the window, she couldn’t get through, so they helped her and other people to get out.
We got out of the basement. We evacuated in clothes that we wore, nothing else, no bags, no stuff, just a file with ID papers. That was it!
We were walking with my friend under shelling along with other people all the way to [another Ukrainian village]. We walked and prayed for God to save and help us reach the safety. I don’t know how we were possibly able to walk so many miles! Only God could give us that strength. Everything around looked awful; the city was destroyed. What remained of the houses were only black burnt walls. We walked and saw piles of corpses of military and civilians. Nobody buried them because of the shelling. The shells hit the houses that burned to the ground. I hurt just to recall that picture (Raisa turned away and was silent, her eyes full with tears). Look at me (she showed that her robe was too big for her), see how much I lost weight after we endured all that! I lost my home in Mariupol. I buried my husband.
Having miraculously escaped Mariupol, we reached [the Ukrainian city]. We stayed there for some time. Later by different and long ways, I got to Poland. It turned out to be a very rough trip for me…”
Raisa reunited with her daughter Alyona and her grandchildren, who were able to evacuate from their home in Ukraine earlier. They are now glad to be together after hard trials and separation. For now, they live at an SGA-supported church in Poland whose members are ministering to their physical and spiritual needs.
In a time of great uncertainty, God is bringing help, healing, and hope to the people of Ukraine through SGA-supported pastors, churches, a seminary, and SGA-sponsored Compassion Ministry. Be a part of God’s incredible work with your generosity and prayer support.
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