Editor’s Note: The images below were provided by an SGA-supported church in Ukraine.
Yana and her daughter recently evacuated Ukraine, leaving behind Yana’s husband. After having her entire world turned upside down – from living a comparatively wealthy life to living in financial need – Yana now recognizes the precious treasure of living a life dependent on God.
Yana (age 33), her daughter Katya (age 8)
Yana begins her story with these words: “In my pre-war life, I worked as a sales assistant in a household appliance store, got over severe COVID-19, then flew on vacation with my family. We lived a very prosperous life, buying anything we wanted. We bought our daughter a Labrador puppy, we mad many plans, big dreams- but the war came.
“On the eve of the war, on the evening of February 23, my whole family gathered together to celebrate the men’s holiday. Then everyone went home. And on the morning of February 24, we got a call and were told that the war had begun. A thought came to me straight away: get some water, buy some food, withdraw money from the card. There was a big scare, there was a lot of fear, a lot of panic, you didn’t know where to go, where to run. No one could believe that [we had been attacked].
“At first, we didn’t go anywhere,” remembered Yana. “But little by little the situation got worse; explosions were heard in cities right next to where we lived. Nobody gave us any specific information. We got all the information only from the Internet. The mayor agreed to run free evacuation trains. And people all around us started to leave.”
The situation in the city
“Three or four days after the beginning of the war, tap water became unusable for drinking, even after boiling. Even houseplants died after watering with such water. Within a short period of time, drinking water in stores and kiosks ran out completely. We had to find water in wells and springs.
“For two weeks there was no food supply, and the food products that were previously available were completely taken away by people. There were only empty shelves in the supermarket. And the drugstores were absolutely empty, too.” Yana says her family was saved by her habit of stocking up on food and medicine. Prior to the start of the war, she had bought cereals, flour, sugar, and sunflower oil.
In nearby villages, farmers began slaughtering their cattle and bringing the meat for sale to the cities. On one of those days, Yana managed to buy meat for her family.
What saved her, says Yana, was that she knew many people in the city, and they tried to help her. Someone sold her sugar, someone called her and told her that the drugstore had the drugs she needed.
Yana and her daughter didn’t want to leave the city until the last moment. But every day there was growing panic among the city’s residents, as the situation was escalating. She and her daughter decided to leave their home.
Yana says, “Many tears were shed. How do you take with you what you’ve gained over the years, how can you leave your comfortable home, how do you part with your beloved husband, other relatives and friends?”
“I was leaving with my child to another city on April 17; it was snowing heavily, was cold outside, windy, my backpack was heavy, many bags, my child in my hands, but until the last moment I thought: maybe we should stay? I was awaiting a sign. I thought perhaps the people who were supposed to pick us up would call us and cancel the trip. But they came and took me and my daughter.
“It was hard to see so many families saying goodbye at the station. I remembered my husband who remained at home, and who still works regularly going down into the mine. He told me over the phone that during heavy shelling, all the miners are brought to the surface, so they don’t get stuck underground. I keep in touch with him all the time.” Yana talks and cries, saying she really wants to go home.
It took Yana and her daughter three days, and a difficult journey, to get out. The trains were completely jammed; there was no water on them for the guests. When people went to bed, they were packed in together on the trains. Yet when they finally arrived in Poland, people came into the train and gave them food, water, toys, and sweets to the children. “We sat and cried at the fact that we had been given such care,” Yana recalls.
God’s way to Yana’s heart
Yana says God led them to a Baptist church in Poland. Along the way, they met another woman who helped them get there. “People come into our lives for a reason! God sends them to us for something” states Yana.
In Poland, while standing on the platform of the railway station, some strangers gave her an envelope of money. They just saw Yana standing there and crying of despair. When Yana opened it, she discovered she’d been blessed with a generous amount of money. “That’s how God took care of my daughter and me, my friends and their children, who were also on the train with us,” Yana says tearfully.
Yana, her daughter, and her friend and children arrived to safety on April 20. They were all welcomed by Christians and placed in a local church.
At the refugee center, which is in the church, Yana now volunteers to take care of children at a daycare.
“I am deeply grateful to all those who support us. You know, after all that time, I have realized the following: I am here for a reason, I have reevaluated my life and realized that God gives everything for a certain purpose! Even though I had never thought about God and faith before!”
Yana says that at church she has started becoming closer to God… since she realized He was leading her to Him!
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.
Your gift of compassion helps struggling people with emergency aid that generally includes Scripture materials, food, medicine, warm clothing, and shoes.