“ERDO is continuing to work with incredible Pentecostal church partners, agencies and global workers to care for the very real needs of people. In the middle of disaster, we see God is at work!”
Alina and her daughter, Kateryna, were watching TV when a special report was broadcast. Their country had been invaded. Soon, Alina’s son, Kateryna’s brother, went to serve in the armed forces. Kateryna’s husband, her sister’s husband, her sister’s son and her niece’s husband—all the men in the family—enlisted in the army before the week was out.
Alina and Kateryna were left at home with no income.
In a matter of days, parts of the country were being bombed. In a few short weeks, hundreds of soldiers had lost their lives. Civilian areas became targets for missile strikes. Many elderly people were trapped in their half-bombed apartment buildings. Quickly, severe shortages of electricity, water and food began in multiple cities.
“Before the war, my husband was a private entrepreneur in the granite business. Our family income was quite good. Now, we live only [on] my mother’s small pension of 65 euros per month,” Kateryna said.
If you went to the bank today, 65 euros would be equivalent to C$96. Alina and Kateryna were barely surviving, tucked away in the southeast of the country. Unfortunately, their story is not unique.
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, many around the world were just as blindsided as Alina and Kateryna were.
ERDO, worried about the safety of our ChildCARE Plus sponsored children, would spend the next several weeks communicating with PAOC global worker Ed Dickson to make sure that every child was safe with family or found refuge in a nearby country. Requests for support poured in from Pentecostal churches in Poland, Moldova, Romania, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. As refugees crossed borders into these nearby countries, fleeing bombing, violence and hunger, churches opened their doors.
ERDO began supporting these churches, helping bring refugees to safety, bringing food, medicine and supplies into Ukraine, and bringing coats and winter clothes to families during the cold months. We found (or they found us) church partners in so many countries who began pouring aid into the devastation of war.
One of our partners, Integra Foundation in Slovakia, began bringing food and supplies to families living in Ukraine. Now, after receiving life-saving supplies, Kateryna is volunteering with displaced children and has started a shelter for lost dogs at her husband’s business facility. They talk to their neighbours every day, looking for more ways to help struggling families in their community.
Another woman, Maria, lives in a small town near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. When the war started, she worked as an economic manager, but soon began volunteering in a warehouse where our partner operates. Here, they prepare packages of medicine for people in desperate need.
Last year, fighting near Kyiv became very intense, with more regular bombing and shelling of civilian areas. Maria decided to leave everything behind and move to the southwest part of Ukraine. Immediately after her hometown was liberated, she returned to continue organizing humanitarian aid.
On coming home, she found that her friends had lost their jobs and some of her neighbours’ homes were destroyed in bombings. Stores were closed and families were left in need of food and supplies. Maria began organizing supplies from one of our partners. Packages included food and hygiene supplies, charged phones and hot water. Now, ERDO’s partner delivers supplies to 1,400 people in Maria’s town daily.
Workers from our partner in Hungary, Hungarian Gypsy Mission International, were able to cross the border and visit some Ukrainian villages. They brought packages to displaced families, including pasta, tea, spices, detergent, soap, hygiene items, medicine, food, candles and coffee. They have helped over 12,000 people in need with relief.
Many of these families did not believe the war would last this long and are waiting for a resolution. “If only there were peace! It would be the best if we could live like we did before,” Pietro, a man from western Ukraine, told our partners. He sighed and added that he doesn’t go outside anymore, as he’s afraid of being recruited into the army.
Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe after Russia, is also the poorest country. 1 Many of the families assisted in western Ukraine were already living in poverty before the war. There is constant unemployment, and the standard of living has dropped further than ever. Prices are soaring due to lack of availability as the war has depleted shelves and closed businesses.
Our partners also reported that families in western Ukraine live in constant fear of their families being pulled apart, unsure they can survive this conflict. Daria, her husband and their three small children were among those who fled their homes to safer parts of Ukraine. Her own town had been virtually erased after military attacks. She said, “When the war broke out, we could still stay in our home for a while, but owing to the bombings, our house always quaked. Our children were afraid. That’s why we couldn’t stay any longer, but got on a train and left our town.
“Once, in 2014, we lost everything. We had to start all over again out of nothing, and now we have the same lot again. Christian brothers and sisters helped us get a new home then. Now, many fugitives spend all their money on accommodation. We can’t express with words what it means to be supported like this,” she said, referring to the emergency relief packages she was given. These packages allowed the family to eat and pay for shelter.
Another partner of ERDO, Pastor Yustyk, talked about the difficulties of living through war. “Lack of food is a serious problem. There are families who can cook a simple meal every other day only. Medicine prices have soared; therefore, many suffer from illnesses, and there is yet the serious problem of outage.” Despite these problems, he said people are seeking God in the middle of their troubles, and their hearts are more open to the gospel than ever.
ERDO is continuing to work with incredible Pentecostal church partners, agencies and global workers to care for the very real needs of people. In the middle of disaster, we see God is at work!
To learn more about ERDO’s work in Ukraine and support our partners’ efforts, visit https://erdo.ca/crises/war-in-ukraine.
*All names have been changed to protect the identities of the people in these stories.
Alicia Kolenda is the marketing and communications co-ordinator at ERDO (Emergency Relief and Development Overseas).
This article appeared in the July/August/September 2023 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2023 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos courtesy ERDO. Pictured: Alina and Katerina, and a damaged building in Bucha taken by Maia Mikhaluk.
- 1. “Poorest Countries in Europe 2023,” World Population Review, accessed April 20, 2023, https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/poorest-countries-in-europe.