Here is a story told by SGA team member Oleksandra in Ukraine, who shares a young woman’s remarkable testimony . . .
As followers of Jesus Christ, we long to get closer to Him, experience His presence in daily life, and strengthen our relationship with Him. But are we prepared to continue pursuing this aim, knowing that our journey deeper into the heart of God may involve suffering? The bitter truth is that we can hardly achieve the goal of knowing God better without undergoing trials. Moreover, our suffering can bring glory to God when we serve in the midst of them.
This is what many Christians in Ukraine have learned during the period of war. Among them, there is a young woman named Viktoria, whose testimony touched my heart deeply when I first heard it. Her story narrates a journey from being a single Christian woman waiting for a husband to becoming the wife of a fallen hero. She refused to let her suffering go to waste and initiated a powerful ministry during wartime.
Viktoria met Jesus at the age of 12. Even though her father left her when she was a child, she didn’t feel for the lack of a father’s love as it was God who became her true father. Later, at the age of 25, she devoted her life to Jesus, serving him wholeheartedly. She also started praying for a life partner, a man who would love God with all his heart and soul, and become her true companion. The waiting became a real challenge for this young lady, especially after she turned 30, as the social pressure was huge.
Not only God but people tested her trust, saying phrases like You must feel so lonely, don’t worry, if you pray constantly you will be married soon. Or maybe you just need to lower your high standards. Or Shouldn’t you stop being so picky, don’t you think there are enough men to choose from? All these words left her feeling hurt and vulnerable. So, when she came to God in prayer, she would ask Him: ‘Is something wrong with me? Am I not enough?’ But the Lord comforted her through the Scriptures, helping her endure the difficult test of waiting. As said in Isaiah 40:31—But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.
So, with her strength renewed, knowing her worth in Christ, Viktoria kept serving God, delighting herself in the Lord. And when she least expected it, the Lord answered her prayer. She was tested for a very long time, but she was richly rewarded. In 2020, she met Vadym, a godly man and devoted follower of Jesus Christ who later proposed to her and asked her to marry him. Marrying in July 2021 at the age of 32, she remained convinced that it was a divine gift at precisely the right time.
The journey of this married couple passionate for God only began and it could have been a happy story about a marriage that lasted a lifetime. But the peaceful chapter of this story ended seven months later, on the 24 of February, when the full-scale war began in Ukraine. Little did this young woman expect the immense challenges she would face as the military psychologist’s wife who would later be called ‘a wife of a fallen hero.’
As a psychologist, Vadym wasn’t supposed to take part in combat but remain in the rear. However, after the Russian army captured several towns and cities, and targeted Kyiv at the end of February, he couldn’t stand aside. “I need to protect you”—he said to his wife and joined the battle. It was the first time, but certainly not the last, when Viktoria had to say goodbye to her beloved husband, not being sure she would see him again.
Fortunately, on 2 April 2022, Ukrainian forces retook control over all of Kyiv region and declared it liberated. It was a small victory and a sweet moment of a family reunion. But it didn’t last long as the battle was won but not the war. As soon as the [invaders] took control over the eastern part of Ukraine, a lot of men voluntarily left the safety of their homes to protect their land and loved ones. Vadym was among them.
Why did he go to the front line? He had the option to remain in the city, offering psychological help to those who returned from the battlefield. However, the harsh reality was that many of his friends never made it back. That’s when he understood that his calling was to support soldiers right where they confronted death. They needed to find hope and receive comfort for their weary souls. It wasn’t easy for a newlywed to let her husband go, but she had to place her trust in his deep connection with God and believe that he followed where God led him. It was his ministry.
Now Viktoria doesn’t doubt it after having received phone calls from her husband’s comrades who said, “Yesterday, as I sat in the fighting hole, your husband came to mind. I remember him often. He was the one we could open our souls to and he would always listen to us.” Another fellow soldier shared, “We’re currently taking our positions, and I’m reading Psalm 91. Do you know where I got it from? Your husband gave it to me. We used to pray together and face all the hardships side by side.” Viktoria can hardly imagine how many seeds her husband planted into the hearts of the soldiers, and she’s proud that he could spread the good message. But being a Jesus witness on the battlefield came with a high cost. The young widow will never forget the phone call that changed her life, splitting it into ‘before’ and ‘after’. But I’ll let her tell her own story . . .
“Everything crumbled when I received that phone call. “Good day,” I heard and understood that it was one of my husband’s friends calling, someone I knew well. But he introduced himself officially and informed me: during a combat mission, a soldier named [he mentioned the full name] had passed away.
I felt like I was falling into a pit. I started shouting into the phone, “NO!” His comrade explained that my husband had no injuries; he had been unconscious on the battlefield for days. Most likely, he had been concussed, and unfortunately, they couldn’t extract him due to shelling. I asked if there was a chance he was alive, but there was silence in response.
That moment was the most horrifying event in my life. I remember that after the phone call, I went outside and fell to my knees. I didn’t start crying; I began to wail. It was a kind of wailing similar to a dog’s cry. It was nighttime with the starry sky above and my howling in the silence. Physically, it felt like I was descending into a pit and crashing there. It was an abyss with no light or support. My body was trembling, and I couldn’t catch my breath.
Our parents lived nearby, and they heard my cries. They rushed outside and carried me home. They supported me, carrying me in their arms while my legs dragged along the ground. Then, together with my mother-in-law, we collapsed on the floor, embracing each other and burst into tears. Meanwhile, I kept descending lower and lower into that abyss. Then, in that pit, a black slab appeared, pressing down on me from above. The meaning of life disappeared instantly, taking hope with it. Did I see God in that darkness? No, I didn’t. My body began to shake, and I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. I couldn’t breathe.
We knew we couldn’t get through this alone, so we immediately called our close friends, who came as soon as they could. At that moment, I had no desire to pray, at all. I had no desire to rely on God, at all. But I knew I could still rely on Him and I needed Him more than ever.
When our friends arrived, we decided just to pray. We prayed for five hours non-stop, without getting up. I am very grateful to that family who supported us so much. While we were praying, I felt as if someone had lifted that slab that was pressing down on me in the pit so that it wouldn’t crush me. Only then I started to breathe again. We prayed for six hours, and sometimes it went up to 10. It was a prayer that alternated with praise, and so on in a cycle. Before this, I didn’t know that prayer could be so long. What did we ask God for in our prayers? We asked Him to give us the strength to get through this, to show His love to us, and for me to know Him better. I prayed to the Lord, “Reveal Yourself to me more.” However, to truly behold God, I had to turn away from that tragic situation, literally showing my back to this loss, and instead, turning my face toward my Creator. When you praise God while enduring loss and express gratitude to Him for being the Lord and Creator, for having prepared eternity for us, your perspective on the situation undergoes a transformation. As God became more prominent against the backdrop of this tragedy, the situation with death appeared to diminish in significance.
At that point, my husband’s body still hadn’t been found. We waited with hope. We waited for a miracle. I believed he could be alive because he had no injuries. I prayed to God for miracles, but I realized that His will prevailed, and I accepted it. Accepting God’s will can be extremely challenging when you lack a deep understanding of who your God is, when you’re unaware that, despite all, He loves you. When you haven’t felt the love of Jesus, embracing His will becomes a difficult task.
You asked me, “How can you feel God’s love when you lose your beloved husband, whom you just married after so many years of waiting?” I’ll tell you. It’s definitely painful. In the midst of tragedy, when there was no desire even to read the Bible, I found myself recalling the Word of God that had been placed in my mind until that moment. During brighter, sunnier days, immerse yourself in the Scriptures and plant biblical truths into your heart. Because when darkness enters your life, you’ll need to reach for those verses, extract hope from God’s word, and lean on those truths. So, what I remembered was Psalm 139.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you (Psalm 139:5-12).
God reminded me that He was always with me, and I realized that even in these circumstances, I was not alone. Additionally, verses came to mind that speak of the Lord knowing me even in my mother’s womb, and how He had knowledge of every day of my life in advance.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
He thought of me even before my birth, and His plan for me is filled with love. I reminded my heart that the greatest expression of love for me is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God gave His son for me. Can there be a greater manifestation of unconditional love? And, most importantly, through this sacrifice, my husband has gained eternity. Although he has physically passed away and is no longer by my side, he lives on. For this, I can thank God endlessly. It’s a hope that extends not only in this life but also beyond death. As stated in Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Comprehending this truth is not easy though. You need to set aside your logical reasoning and live solely by faith. It’s an intangible thing that you grasp and hold onto. And in doing so, my hope was rekindled, and my life’s purpose was restored.
However, the breaking point was yet to come. It happened when Vadym’s comrade called me, informing me that they had finally found my husband and identified his body. Two days later, an official document arrived, confirming my husband’s status as a fallen soldier. It was time to prepare for the funeral. That was the moment when apathy started consuming me. When someone experiences loss, they find themselves in a state of profound despair. The simple act of getting up became a tough challenge. The grief anchored me to the bed. I didn’t want to eat despite being hungry. Even the idea of stepping into the shower felt utterly exhausting.
I was aware that I had to fight for my emotional well-being and I knew that only God could give me the strength to overcome this battle. During those challenging days, I sought solace in Scripture, prayer, and worship. The most critical moment of my life marked a turning point in my understanding of God and His loving heart. Though I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, it was precisely that place where I experienced the incredible love and presence of Jesus.
Two days had passed since I received the heartbreaking news of my husband’s passing when I felt a sense of peace filling my heart. It was a triumph over apathy, fear, and helplessness. And it was not by my own merit. This victory belonged to Jesus. He not only filled my heart with peace, but He also turned my grief into joy and my tears into a smile.
I really mean what I say. As we were leaving home for my husband’s funeral, a profoundly significant picture of me was taken. It might sound unusual, but my face illuminated with a smile. It was the smile of a soul being healed. My soul rejoiced because, when I found myself in a desert, I felt my Savior embracing me. He was my oasis. In the darkest days of my life, I experienced heaven. I have never felt as close to Him as I did then. The verse from Job 42:5 became my reality: I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Since then I know that it’s impossible to love heaven if you have never experienced even a tiny bit of it here on Earth.
Exactly one year after their wedding, Viktoria went to the same church where she had exchanged vows with her husband. A year ago, it had been her beloved standing at the altar, watching her as she walked down the aisle as his bride. Now, it was her moment to stand there once more, this time beside her husband’s tomb at his funeral.
Her heart was crying, but her soul was redeemed in peace. She was sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:38-39).
God continued to heal this young widow’s heart through a special ministry. He used her as a testimony for many women who lost their husbands or sons in the war and were now seeking hope, love, and healing. Viktoria’s heart was filled with empathy for those who shared her pain. Whenever she encountered a fallen soldier’s wife or mother at funerals or ceremonies commemorating the Ukrainian heroes, she couldn’t resist the desire to approach those grieving women, offering hugs and reassurance that they were not alone. She wanted to bring love and hope into their lives by pointing at Jesus as the only source of strength to overcome apathy and hopelessness.
God called Viktoria to start a ministry reaching out to non-Christian widows, and she answered that call. Thanks to this ministry, which our church began supporting, I had the opportunity to meet Viktoria in person. We crossed paths during a summer camp where Viktoria came with a group of widows. She served these women, while I had the privilege of serving their children. I am profoundly grateful that God brought us together on this journey. Glory to God for turning sorrow into joy, tears into a smile, and suffering into a blessing.
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-supported 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.