Tears flowed as Valentina walked into the warm OM house in Vinnitsa (in the western part of Ukraine) as the sun was setting on the 14th day of Putin’s war against Ukraine. She arrived here from the city of Sumy. Five days before the perilous journey, Valentina had taken two families into her 2-bedroom flat, nine souls in total. They previously had been her neighbors, but now their neighborhood had been bombed.
Two nights later Valentina was taking a shower around midnight, after the children were at last able to fall asleep. She did not hear the air raid sirens go off, just the screams from the hallway outside the bathroom door. Running into the corridor with nothing but a towel around her, she found that a rocket had hit not 300 yards away from her home and that the sky was bright with Russian forces bombing the sleeping neighborhood.
This was the night of March 6, 2022. On the 9th, the “green corridor” opened and the two families told Valentina that they were leaving and she should leave with them.
They left very early with fear in their hearts; travel was slow and hard. The rule was that a man was only allowed in a vehicle if he was the driver. Time and time again the flashlights were shone into the car on the face of the 14-year-old teen sitting in the back. Soldiers wanted to make sure there were no men hiding.
After a warm meal, I sat with Valentina and listened as the tears rolled down her cheeks. I prayed more than once during the 40 minutes I spent with her. Her hands were shaking as she held mine tightly. As I prayed her hands relaxed and her breathing settled. She believes in God but had never really prayed before. Yet for the last two weeks, Valentina has been reading an Orthodox prayer book every night.
Valentina, the 4 adults, 3 children and a kitten slept soundly for the first time in two weeks. But then they needed to continue their way toward a safer haven. The two families were planning to join some family in a village further west in Ukraine, while Valentina is hoping to join family in Europe.
This is but one story of lives traumatized by the senseless violence of this war. Pray for peace in Ukraine.
Note: OM team members have remained on the ground in Ukraine, serving the needs of people by sharing food, providing temporary shelter for those traveling westward and driving to pick up those who have no other form of transportation and bringing them to safety.