Saturday, January 13, 2024

What is it like?

The changing of years is always a good time for personal reflection and analysis of the previous year and planning for the coming year. While I’m not going to use this space to share my personal conclusions regarding 2023 and plans for 2024, I do want to dedicate this post to writing a bit more detail of my impressions of living in Ukraine during a war. I find some of my thoughts, emotions and reactions repeating themselves, others have intensified, and yet others have diminished or disappeared. The war has continued for nearly two years now. While I understand why it is not ongoing front and center news all over the world, we in Ukraine are not allowed or able to forget about it. To varying extents, depending on our location and activities, we daily live with the reality of war. So what does that look and feel? Here are just a few of the ways I could answer that question:  

WAR in Ukraine looks like being awakened multiple times in the night to air alert sirens. First they go off to alert you of the threat of attack. Then later they go off to cancel the alert. Then another threat is detected and they go off again. And so the cycle goes all night. And you know that if they are going off in Lutsk, they are most likely going off everywhere and so all of Ukraine is under attack. And when you hear them multiple times in one night, you are not surprised (you expect it, in fact) to read the news in the morning of multiple cities hit and civilians targeted and killed. Just recently, 158 cruise missiles and drones were launched at Ukraine - in one night! 

WAR in Ukraine means simultaneously feeling sorrow and thankfulness when you read the morning news. Because along with seeing the high number of missiles and drones launched at Ukraine in the night, you also note that a high percentage of them that were shot down by our air defense systems. You are thankful that our men have the weapons, skills, desire, diligence and attentiveness to protect Ukrainians day and night. 

WAR in Ukraine means that as you walk to work surrounded by fresh snow all around, you do not fully enjoy the beauty as you once did. Instead, you feel a measure of guilt because in a few minutes you will trade the bitterly cold, single digit temperatures for a warm building while our soldiers sit, stand, and sleep in this weather day after day while defending this nation. You express gratitude to God for their sacrifice and pray they have adequate warmth, food and clothing.   

WAR in Ukraine looks like hearing the air alert sirens during the day followed by the groan of a coworker whose child is at preschool or school. Why? Because they know their child will now spend 30 hour...maybe even several hours down in the cold basement bomb shelter instead of in the warm classroom learning or playing.

WAR in Ukraine means cheering when you hear Ukrainian fighter jets fly over head. As you watch them through the window your heart cheers and you mutter words like, “Go get ‘em boys! Thank you for defending our skies!” And then you are really excited when you observe that recently there began to be not just one, but two fighter jets regularly flying over Lutsk! Bring on the F16s!

WAR in Ukraine feels like sorrow and anger when a friend of a friend is killed while defending Ukraine. You see his picture on the internet. No, you didn’t know him, but your friend did, so it hits closer to home. He was only 24, with a wife and little girl. Your heart breaks for that family, for that little girl who will now grow up without her father. And you pray for God’s peace to fill them. And you are reminded again that they are just one of many. In your heart you feel sorrow and anger simultaneously. This war does not have to be!! These men, young and old, don’t have to die this way, leaving behind wives, children, parents, siblings, friends and their country. 

WAR in Ukraine is minor inconveniences and sober reminders. You make a trip across town just to go to one particular store. But as you are driving, the air alert sirens go off, meaning that the store is closed when you arrive. You get back in your car, trying to decide whether to risk that the cancellation signal will soon be heard and the store will reopen or to just turn right around and leave. And while you ponder what to do, you hear commotion and look up to witness the procession of vehicles escorting the body of yet another soldier killed in the war to the cemetery. And you are reminded again that this war is taking the lives of so many in Ukraine. 

WAR in Ukraine feels like rejoicing when over 200 Ukrainian prisoners of war return home. The pictures of them standing near the dark draped in Ukrainian flags, hugging and singing the national anthem capture your attention. And then, when you hear that among them are 48 soldiers who had been missing in action, you feel a glimmer of hope that your coworker’s son, who was declared MIA one year ago, will be among them. Unfortunately, no such news comes. 

WAR in Ukraine sounds like the fellowship portion of weekly home groups including a small or large portion of the conversation about the war. We ask about one ladies’ brother who has long been fighting on the front line. We discuss pending laws regarding mobilization. Someone comments on the large numbers of wounded soldiers recently brought to our hospital. We talk about the recent attacks and ask about the family members and friends still living in the cities from which members of our group fled at the beginning of the war. And on and on... While war itself is not normal, the topic of war has become normal and natural. It cannot and should not be avoided because it is the reality of everyday life in Ukraine. 

WAR in Ukraine means that you now have friends scattered all over the globe - Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, the US. Some of them you haven't seen for two years and some of them you get rare opportunities to see. They are people you were close to before the war. You saw them nearly every day. You worked together, shared an office with them, and frequently shared life together outside of work. So when that rare opportunity comes to see them in person you stay up late talking and laughing, discussing the future and wondering together when they might live in Ukraine and work together with you again. It's truly sad how much separation of families and friends has been brought by the war. I am certain not on person in Ukraine is exempt from experiencing the pains of separation on some level!    

Thankful for a few days with the dear friends not currently living in Ukraine (above and below)

WAR in Ukraine means going to work week after week and month after month at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex and being reminded of the vast numbers of Ukrainian men wounded - often quite severely wounded - in this war. These men and their families will never be the same. Many will spend the rest of their lives in a wheelchair. Some learn to walk again, but not without great difficulty. Many need specialized equipment or prosthetics or orthotics. The mechanism of injury for most is an explosion, so their injuries are often extensive. They go through months of rehabilitation at various centers in Ukraine and sometimes abroad. It can be discouraging when you see how many applications Agape alone receives knowing it is only a small portion of all the wounded soldiers. But, we are thankful we get to help some of them on their path to recovery. 

Please use this link to watch a video about Denis, one of the Ukrainian soldiers who underwent rehabilitation at the Agape Rehabilitation Complex:

If you would like to financially support the Agape Rehabilitation Complex as we continue providing rehabilitation for soldiers and civilians, delivering humanitarian aid to the de-occupied territories of Ukraine and constructing an bomb shelter/ storage center to align with new Ukrainian laws, please go to: 

And please, continue to pray for Ukraine and the Agape Rehabilitation Complex. We continue to need support and prayer! The war rages on and lives are at stake. 

Our hope is in God as we pray for victory for Ukraine in 2024! 

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