In Europe’s largest ground war since World War 2, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. It began with Russian president Vladimir Putin ordering a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine, warning that interference could lead to “consequences you have never seen.” Shortly after Putin’s announcement, missiles exploded in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and other cities throughout the country.
Since the attack, multitudes of people throughout Ukraine have spent nights in basements, bomb shelters, or subway tunnels. The scream of incoming missiles, bombs, and gunshots has been traumatizing for everyone, especially children. A mother said, “I was awake at night when I got a message about Putin’s speech announcing an invasion. Then immediately the explosions began. To realize that Kyiv was under attack was a big shock. I dressed my 10-year-old son. He was so scared he vomited.”
One young girl kept waking her mom during the night, screaming, “Mom, I’m scared, please save me!” She calmed down only after her mother held her for the rest of the night.
Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing Ukraine for Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary. Long lines of traffic move slowly—at times less than 1 mph—on their way to the border. With few trains or buses running and gasoline scarce, many people abandon their vehicles and walk for miles, carrying children and dragging suitcases as best they can.
People are waiting for as long as twenty-four hours at congested border crossings in freezing temperatures, with no food, water, or toilet facilities. Many men ages 18-60 are forced to stay behind because of military conscription. Some plead, “Please don’t make me do this, I have children!” Women cry as they bid goodbye to husbands and sons.
“We are witnessing what could become the largest humanitarian crisis on our European continent in many, many years,” says the European Commissioner for Crisis Management. “The expected number of displaced Ukrainians is over 7 million, and around 18 million are expected to be affected by the conflict in humanitarian terms.”
During communism, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. In the 1930s, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin initiated a famine that caused the deaths of millions of Ukrainians. Since 1992 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been an independent country caught in a tug-of-war between Russia and the West. Many ethnic Russians reside in Ukraine, and many Ukrainians have relatives in Russia. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, a part of Ukraine where ethnic Russians were the majority. It also backed militant separatists in two eastern provinces.
So far, hundreds of people have been killed, thousands injured, and millions turned into refugees or internally displaced people. The US Ambassador to the United Nations says, “The tidal waves of suffering this war will cause are unthinkable.”
The full military mobilization for men aged 18-60 is creating a serious dilemma for nonresistant Christians. Ukraine has hundreds of thousands of Christians whose beliefs are similar to the Anabaptists. Many Ukrainian believers come from Mennonite backgrounds. In the 1760s, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, invited the Mennonites to settle in Ukraine, granting them freedom of religion and other benefits.
CAM’s American staff, who evacuated prior to the military invasion, are in daily contact with our Ukrainian national staff. Together, they are working with churches to organize humanitarian aid distributions for displaced Ukrainians. The greatest cry is for food. Additionally, we are working to provide Christian literature for displaced Ukrainians in the western part of the country.
We are also working with partner groups to assist refugees in various countries surrounding Ukraine. In Romania, CAM staff members at our base are hosting refugees.
Many Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to Moldova, an impoverished country bordering Ukraine. With the extra strain this influx of refugees is placing on already needy people, we will probably provide aid to some Moldovans.
If you feel led to help, your gift will bless Ukrainians and others in Eastern Europe suffering the ravages of war. Funds will be used in the name of Christ to provide food and other aid as well as Bibles and Bible story books. God bless you!
To help support the Ukraine Crisis program, please click the button below to give a gift.