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Air raid sirens and church bells ring out Easter Sunday

April 01, 2024 

April 1 

Easter Monday 

 

Our Easter Sunday morning started with air raid sirens and the tolling of church bells — how appropriate to describe the Ukraine right now. On Friday, I shared images of courage amidst war. To start this week, I want to share images of renewal and resilience, because that’s who the people of Ukraine are.

We’ve learned of a few opportunities Mission Outreach has to further support the health care needs of people here, and we will act as quickly as necessary to support them in anyway we can. Over the next week as we travel to Odesa and other places, we will see more areas where war has devastated the land, but will never conquer the resolve of the Ukrainian nation.

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Both these women are named Olga. Olga on the left was our translator in Kyiv. She is a professor at a local university specializing in translation for Information Technology professionals. Olga on the right showed us around Bucha and Irpin, where she and her neighbors survived the Russian occupation in February and March 2022. They are a few of the bravest, strongest women I’ve ever met. 

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In Kamyanets-Podilsky, Ukraine, a view from the hotel lobby. The city is near the border of Moldova, and while air raid sirens do go off, it feels as though it’s a typical eastern European town.

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Ukrainians love their pets and will sacrifice a great deal for them. When the cities of Irpin and Bucha were occupied early in 2022, many people wouldn’t evacuate their homes without their pets. Those who were forced to evacuate searched for their pets immediately upon returning, and many were relieved to be reunited.

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This is Maria, one of many heroes in Ukraine. In 2016, she started a home, the Chortkiv House of Mercy, for disabled children because she couldn’t find a school that could care for her son, who has autism. Now, the House of Mercy has helped more than 400 disabled or abandoned children, who otherwise would have nowhere to go. Since the outbreak of war in 2022, their services have expanded to seniors and adults with physical, mental and emotional disabilities – many from the trauma of the war. They have accepted many refugees from eastern Ukraine who are fleeing war and have nowhere else to go. “I do nothing,” says Maria. “God has blessed us to care for each other.”

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This is a woman who is older, and has a physical disability that requires her to use a wheelchair. She was abandoned in a bomb shelter in eastern Ukraine, when her village was occupied by the Russian army. She eventually was rescued and was brought to the Chortkiv House of Mercy, where she will live indefinitely. Her hobby is sewing lavender sachets. “Take some for your friends in America,” she tells me, pressing several sachets in my palm, “and come back when this war is over to help us celebrate freedom and peace.” 

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Life and death, side-by-side the cellar of a Catholic center in Chortkiv, Ukraine. On the right, the cell of a former KGB prison. When in use, as many as 30 to 40 people may have been confined in this small space at one time. On the left, a prison cell that was transformed into an altar to remember those who endured torture and suffering – even death – during the communist era in Ukraine. 

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Lydia is the program director at Chortkiv House of Mercy. Ivan is a funny, spirited little boy who lives there, because he has no family members who can give him the care he needs. 

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Olga, who endured the brutal attack on her hometown of Bucha in February 2022, raises her chin as she talks about the retaking of the city by the Ukrainian army in March 2022. “We Ukrainians look forward,” she says with pride. “The first thing the people in Irpin did when the Russian soldiers let them out of the underground shelters was to plant flowers. That is how we are in Ukraine.”

Air raid sirens and church bells proclaim Easter Sunday morning in Kamyanets-Podilskiy, Ukraine.

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Displays full of photos of fallen soldiers are in every town we visit, portraying the best of those who have given their lives to defend their homeland. This soldier was 40 years old when he was killed, and his memorial photo shows him caring for a kitten.

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A playground in Bucha, Ukraine, which just two years before was the site where many Ukrainians were executed by Russian soldiers in the early days of the war in 2022. Although the memory of those lost is commemorated, the people of the city insist on living and focusing on the future. 

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These are the most important images I can show you from Ukraine. For every building I saw that had been destroyed by war, there is construction happening on three others. Ukraine is rebuilding even in the middle of war with the faith and belief that freedom and justice will overcome. 

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To end this post, an image of beauty and hope. The famous street artist and social activist Banksy visited Bucha after the attack. Banksy painted this image of a child flying a kite on the side of the demolished cultural center.

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Air raid sirens and church bells ring out Easter Sunday