On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in an escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War that started in 2014. The invasion was the biggest attack on a European country since World War II, killing thousands of civilians and displacing millions.
The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, particular along the Russian border, has resulted in countless internally displaced people. Many fled the violence leaving behind all their possessions and livelihoods. They now find themselves in unknown cities, towns, and villages trying to survive the war. The invasion has caused widespread damage to infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and critical utilities, leading to food and water insecurity for millions. Healthcare facilities have been targeted, leaving people without access to the most basic medical care. This is having a sever impact on the health of the population, particularly the most vulnerable groups such as the children and the elderly.
With the winter months quickly approaching, the children should be well into their school year, complaining about exams, while getting ready for a visit from St. Nicholas. Parents should be eagerly shopping for gifts and preparing for the long winter months ahead by stocking up on non-perishable food, filling their larders with root vegetables, ensuring their homes are well isolated, and their animals have enough feed to get them through the winter.
Instead, the children struggle with their schoolwork. While other youngsters their age are able to study remotely, many children in Ukraine have no access to technology, having left all their laptops, iPads, and mobile devices behind as they fled for their lives. Without access to the latest teaching methods via the Internet, many children are struggling to keep up.
Instead of shopping for new clothes for their children, parents are struggling to keep clean what little clothing they have. Without the availability of laundry machines, or any other common household appliances, the parents worry about providing their children with the most basic needs of cleanliness and a sense of normalcy.
Ukrainians have always been raised with a deep sense of family, and their Christian upbringing has nurtured a sense of responsibility for one another and love for their neighbors. Before the vibrations of the first explosions 20 months ago subsided, the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA have stepped up and embraced the suffering civilians of Ukraine by donating funds and providing much needed supplies.
Working through Protopresbyter Kostyantyn Kuzyetzov of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, with the blessing of Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora, Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA and Consistory President, has been instrumental in providing much needed supplies to those who are suffering. Thanks to Fr. Kostantyn, his wife Natalia, and their team’s selfless and tireless determination and efforts to care for those in need, the Church has been able to minister to and aid the poorest of the poor.
Recently funds were sent to help bring a sense of normalcy to these people. The most important segment of any society is its youth. In order for the young to mature into responsible adults, they need to be provided tools to help with their education and growth. To this end numerous tablets, such as iPads, were purchased and given to the students allowing them access to the technology they need to excel in their studies. One such student was an honors student in high school who was preparing his paper for the upcoming Chemistry Olympiad, with hopes of one day becoming a physician. Another was a young girl whose mother cried when she saw the broad smile on her daughter’s face as she opened her iPad and logged on giggling that she would now be able to complete her assignments.
Younger children were pleased with their gifts of toys and chocolates, while their parents rejoiced at being provided with what most people take for granted – vacuum cleaners, washing machines, hot plates for cooking. Now the children would not worry about wearing soiled clothes, nor eating cold food out of can, or how they would finish their studies.
Thousands of people are served daily with provisions of simple hygiene – soaps, shampoos, lotions, in addition to non-perishable food items, bottles of water, basic medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen, combs, razors, etc. All these things which most people take for granted are received with the utmost joy by the suffering and displaced Ukrainian families.
By providing them with food, cleanliness, and technology, the Church has cared for their lives, and their wellbeing. However, our duty does not end there. Sadly, many people are killed daily in airstrikes, bomb blasts, and by snipers. Often their bodies lie where they fell until it is safe to retrieve them and return them to their families. To accomplish this, whether civilian or military, the bodies are placed in body bags and prepared for transport. There UOC of the USA has extended prayers and love to those who have lost their lives by providing funds for the purchase of body bags and refrigerated transport vehicles.
With Winter quickly approaching, the need for assistance will grow exponentially. People will struggle to stay warm and to find enough food for themselves, their families, and their neighbors. Coats, scarves, and mittens will need to be purchased, along with medicines, heaters, coal, etc. The need is great. Please consider helping by donating the UOC of the USA Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief Fund.