Editor’s Note: The testimony below was provided by an SGA-supported church in Poland.
Years before the Ukraine war started this past winter, God was already using Alyona to serve others. Alyona offered comfort and practical help to people suffering from cancer, as she drew from her own experience of suffering from the same destructive disease. Little did Alyona know, however, that the invasion of her country was coming and that her ministering would continue in an entirely different way.
No doubt these days of war have been some of the most challenging of Alyona’s life. But we praise God for her inspiring example to us all. Her focus is on God and not the devastation of Ukraine — and because of Him she has hope for what lies ahead. Here is Alyona’s testimony of God’s unfailing presence, provision, and grace . . .
Alyona (38 years old), her daughter Elizaveta (18 years old), her daughter Uliana (9 years old), her adopted daughter Masha (17 years old),
Over the last 2 years, Alyona was at home with her children and was recovering from her second bout with her cancer. At the same time, she studied all the information about her cancer and then worked on a project called the “Rehabilitation Project” (providing psychological support to people with cancer). Alyona regained her health. And then she volunteered basically as a psychologist, helping a lot of people in person and online. After that, she also began to run a consulting business.
The war found her at home in a cottage town in [Ukraine]. Her phone, which was normally on 24 hours a day, was off that morning. The day before, she was emotionally exhausted after talking to people and decided to have some rest in peace and quiet. Later, her daughter Elizaveta called her from [another city in Ukraine where she was studying] and told her about the explosions and the beginning of the war. Alyona took down to the basement the water and the small amount of food she had in the house. Then she went to the store, but the shelves were already empty because all the people rushed to buy food, and they had taken absolutely everything.
Alyona says, “The salesladies I knew at the store gave me oatmeal, flour, sugar, and condensed milk from the warehouse.” She returned home and, together with other of her neighbors, she and her daughters went down to the basement. There were as many as 12 people there, and then more people came from different areas of [a neighboring city]. After that, there were 25 people (including 7 children of different ages). In the next room in the basement lived a family of five with a baby (8 months old).
There were “arrivals” over their house all the time. For five days, they still went home and went down into the basement during the shelling. There they had a charcoal grill which they put in front of the entrance, a barbecue grill, and lots of “kindling.” A friend of Alyona’s brought them from her warehouse groceries for the whole month: water, salt, flour, sugar, and cereals. And one of the neighbors had a prewar “strategic” supply of meat in her freezer, which she also brought for everyone in the basement. All those supplies helped them survive. Another elderly neighbor, a lady named Zina, brought matches, candles, and salt from her supplies. They cooked meat, lard, and then everyone ate it. They cooked practically everything on the barbecue grill: meat, pancakes, soups, beetroot soups. The men (Igor, Andrey, and Gena) searched for firewood, cut down trees, and brought it during breaks in the shelling. The same men found a generator and all the people in the cottage town could charge their phones from the generator.
Alyona says that in between shelling, she dressed in dark clothes and walked across the city on special “dog” trails (where there were no trip wire-initiated grenades or mines) to her grandmother and carried food and water to her. It was hard for her grandmother to move, so she stayed home all the time. And then, in the same way, she quickly returned to her cottage town to “her family” in the basement.
Military planes flew over their neighborhood, and they could hear bombs being dropped elsewhere. Every time the bombs fell in a different place. The first “arrival” in their nearby house was in early March. People were in the basement, so nobody was killed. However, some floors of the house were destroyed. Alyona recalls, “As I am a Christian, I sat in the corner in the morning somewhere after March 8 at 4-4:20 a.m. and started to pray.” That is when a ground-to-ground Grad rocket flew in and exploded right next to their house. Fragments of the missile hit one of the apartments and the gas pipe was damaged. Some noise began to be heard outside. They came out of the basement with two men and heard gas coming from a broken pipe. The men were in shock and didn’t know what to do. Alyona told everyone they had to find a gas valve to shut off the gas right away. After all, the house could have just blown up. They found a ladder and a valve and quickly climbed up and shut off the gas. After that incident everyone in the basement started to believe in God, they prayed the Lord’s Prayer together, even those who had always denied God and the faith. Alyona lit candles (there was no light for a long time) and read aloud some prayers and the Bible.
At that time, everyone in their basement no longer had any contact with the outside world. They were completely cut off from the outside world and knew nothing about what was going on in Mariupol at the time. But for a while, the store in their neighborhood still had food delivered from warehouses right under the shelling. A car also brought water to the courtyard of one of the residential blocks. Alyona says, “God really had mercy on our neighborhood! For there was already a terrible catastrophe in the center of the city . . . on the left bank of the city. There was hunger, devastation, constant shelling, people were practically living in hell, in total unsanitary conditions, children were dirty and hungry.
Alyona recalls, “I tried to hold myself together all the time so that the people around me in our basement could find support and help in me. Only at night I used to come out of the basement and cry in the street when nobody could see me.”
The entire private sector around their house was already completely destroyed, and there was terrible devastation. Their cottage town as a whole remained intact, only balconies, corners of houses, and windows were destroyed. At the entrance to their cottage town there was a building with a large basement, on which wall they later wrote the word “Morgue.” People’s corpses were brought there from other streets, so that children and people would not see them lying in the street.
There were no ambulances, and even the wounded could not be rescued immediately after the next “arrival.” Many of them often died after getting fragmentation injuries. In the basement, Alyona kept realizing and telling herself, “You have to survive, and in order to do that, you have to control the food supply to have enough for everyone, to organize all the processes of life for people in the basement.”
Cell phone service in their area appeared for a short period around March 10, and Alyona was even able to call her friend and tell her that she was alive. And her friend answered her, “We’ve practically buried you, Alyonochka!” Later, her friend sent two cars to their house to evacuate them, but Alyona could not leave some of the people for whom she was responsible. And two days after that, they all left together (8 people) in cars for [another village], while there were no roadblocks there. “It was the ‘Road of Life’ for us,” cries Alyona. Other people were also leaving the city by this road. There was a massive flow of people there. And they all escaped and remained alive. Praise God!”
“Only with God’s help, my daughters and I were able to leave safely. After that, we went to the [another village in Ukraine], and then to [another Ukrainian city]. Finally, we made it to Poland, making stops along the way. All my daughters are with me now in a local church in [Poland]. God always heard my prayers. He has kept us alive, and we have great plans for the future.”
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.