Good afternoon friends,
I decided to write a quick update for you all about the Ukraine war and how it is affecting life here in Moldova.
I had been watching the news for quite some time, but was hoping that Russia was bluffing and not about to wage actual war in Ukraine. I woke up on Thursday, Feb 24, at the home of friends near Chisinau. Les was due to arrive in the afternoon on a flight from Vienna, Austria (he had left the US in the evening of the 23rd). My friend said that war had begun, and from then I was pretty glued to the news. At noon, I found out that Les could not arrive because the airport in Chisinau was closed until March 5, keeping the airspace above Moldova clear from any flights.
After communicating with our planned hosts, spraying fruit trees at the Maximovca house and joining a prayer session with some American friends in Chisinau, I drove home.
Since then, we have seen refugees from Ukraine begin to arrive, mostly from Odessa, Kyiv and other places where there has been fighting. I think our total right now is around 50,000 refugees, but that is continuing to climb. All of my friends in the capital are involved in housing refugees, transport from the border and volunteering with various church and other groups to provide food, clothes, shelter and legal help for all the refugees.
In Moldova, we have not had much change from normalcy. Schools and shops and everything is open, just that we have lots of new friends to host. There have not been any refugees coming into our village yet, since we are along the Romanian border and 3.5 hours from the capital city. I do believe that we will eventually receive some, as the capital and other urban centers fill up with refugees. Many Moldovans are concerned that war may come here (we are not in NATO either, and our army is tiny), and there is some fear.
In Ukraine, the situation is very difficult. Schools are closed around the country, local transportation (buses) are not working, fuel is being rationed and supermarkets are sporadically open or closed. If you want to get out of the country, you need money, or a car and fuel…and since Ukraine is as poor or poorer than Moldova, people may not have either of these. I noticed that in the rural areas where there is not conflict, people seem to be hoping that war will not come to them, and carrying on as they can. Since only 600,000 refugees have left Ukraine so far, and there are approx. 40 million people in Ukraine, only around 1.5% of the population has left.
There are many Ukrainians who are patriotic, and I think you see that in the president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who refused to be evacuated to the US, asking instead for anti-tank shells for the Ukrainian army. There are checkpoints everywhere throughout the country, made up of local police, soldiers and mostly local men who are volunteering, operating 24hrs/day. They are also barricading the roads (concrete slabs, tractor tires, sandbag walls, etc., to slow down any tanks that will come. These barricades are set up in a zig-zag so that a car can go around them but a tank could not fit. Fuel is rationed and there are lines at the gas stations for buying fuel.
As most of you know, the men in the country (ages 18-60 years) are barred from leaving, as they will be conscripted for army service if needed. This means that only women, children and elderly men can leave the country as refugees.
I have been trying to help where most needed—a young man from Dancu whose siblings and mother are in Ukraine, we were able to help some of them come to Moldova, etc. I plan to help Les and Stas with our projects, serving them as well as we can since Les couldn’t come, coordinating UDG training via the web, and then probably helping with refugees a little later this week. It’s a different world right now, but I am so proud of Moldovans. They are pitching in to help, working to serve the Ukrainians and I think that it is helping them to realize that they are rich in many ways. Who doesn’t have a few jars of preserves or a few potatoes to give? When we give, we realize how blessed we are—and I think many Moldovans may be able to see that they are not weak and needy, but able to help others.
A few prayer requests for Ukrainian friends:
Pray for many to come to Christ during this time, as they realize the fragility of life and the inability of politics and weapons to solve their problems.
The Malancea family, farmers in SE Moldova, have a sister and cousins in Kharkiv (one of the major conflict centers)
Pavel Kistol’s family (the boy from Dancu)—he traveled to a village near Uman get his siblings and Mom out, and has remained there with the youngest two siblings when his Mom and one sister left for Moldova on Sunday
Hope International staff—13 offices across Ukraine, we have worked with and visited many of them. Irina from Melitopol evacuated but her Mom and brother chose to remain.
Moldovans involved in the relief effort, and those with family and friends in Ukraine (many, many Moldovans have relatives in Ukraine)
Thank you for your prayers! Really, that is the very best way to help right now.
All His best,