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UMCOR helps meet needs in Ukraine

Irina and her two children in the playground at the shelter in Batiovo, Ukraine. PHOTO: Dániel Fakete/Okumenikus Segélyszervezet
Irina and her two children in the playground at the shelter in Batiovo, Ukraine. PHOTO: Dániel Fakete/Okumenikus Segélyszervezet
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Irina and her two children, Mathou (age 5) and Tapolina (age 8), evacuated from the eastern part of Ukraine as invading Russian forces began a bombing campaign on their village in the Donetsk region. As in many Ukrainian families, her husband, a history teacher, stayed behind to join the Ukrainian defense forces. At first, they told the children the sound of bombs was just distant thunder, but as the Russian missiles got closer, the children began screaming.

“The children didn’t want to leave the shelter of the furniture. They ate under there. They were really very, very scared. That was when I realized that it was time to evacuate somewhere,” Irina said.

She didn’t even know where to go, other than west to Lviv. On foot they tried to get to the evacuation point, but when Russian forces started shelling, they had to hide. It took multiple tries and getting into a car with Ukrainians they didn’t even know, but they made it to a railway station and out to Lviv. From there, they continued west.

In the Odessa region of Southwest Ukraine, UMCOR partners with International Blue Crescent to truck emergency food rations and other supplies to stations meeting evacuees. Photo: IBC 
In the Odessa region of Southwest Ukraine, UMCOR partners with International Blue Crescent to truck emergency food rations and other supplies to stations meeting evacuees. Photo: IBC.

They finally reached Batiovo, Ukraine, in Transcarpathia, not far from the Hungarian border. There they found a refugee shelter supplied by ACT Alliance partner Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA), an ecumenical humanitarian agency of Protestant and Orthodox churches. They took shelter with about 90 other displaced Ukrainians and received beds, water, shower facilities and three meals a day. The playground outside allows Irina’s children to play with other Ukrainian children, away from the sounds and devastation of the missiles.

The Batiovo refugee shelter is one of more than 120 centers supplied with food, water, hygiene products and household appliances by HIA. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is a partner in this work through its support of ACT Alliance relief work in Ukraine as well as in countries receiving refugees outside the country.

Several other relief organizations have been able to increase their work in Ukraine with UMCOR support. In the southwestern part of Ukraine, a long-time UMCOR partner, International Blue Crescent (IBC), reaches people in the Odessa region with food, water and medical supplies. UMCOR support provides 75,000 meals as well as a 2-month supply of food staples for 1000 households in this besieged region. IBC also provides medical supplies to Bolgrad and Artsyz state hospitals based on their urgent needs.

UMCOR has released two emergency grants to the United Methodist Church in Ukraine. According to the district superintendent for the Ukraine/Moldova Provisional Annual Conference, the Rev. Oleg Starodubets, Ukrainian Methodists continue to serve refugees and people struggling in areas under siege.

The Starodubets family has remained in Lviv, serving the needs of the church and of displaced people arriving there.

Another ACT partner, HEKS-EPERS, reaches people in the Kharkiv region with emergency food, water, hygiene and medical services, even as Russian assaults continue.

In addition to the UMCOR grants, United Methodists support the direct relief efforts of Ukrainian Methodists through the Advance.

What’s left of Borodyanka, a suburb of Kyiv in Ukraine. Photo: HIA 
What’s left of Borodyanka, a suburb of Kyiv in Ukraine. Photo: HIA.

UMCOR partnered with the Arlene Campbell Humanitarian Foundation and Ohio Health to gather and transport three shipments of medicines and medical supplies worth $1 million to three hospitals in Kyiv.

UMCOR partners working in Ukraine and across Europe have all described the refugee and internally displaced populations as “fluid.” Stations and shelters set up in one place may have to be quickly broken down and moved to another.

The horrors endured by the people trapped in Bucha and other communities surrounding Kyiv during occupation are still being discovered, yet, even there, people of faith find a way to survive and way to serve. One young woman who came for food and water thanked the Hungarians for their presence. She said that she and her mother hid during days of occupation in the cellar of their house with their dog, who kept them warm. They had only canned food and potatoes.

excerpt from a story by Christie R. House, consultant writer and editor, Global Ministries and UMCOR. Individual accounts in this article come from HIA, ACT Alliance and the Rev. Oleg Starodubets.

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God’s love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR’s “costs of doing business.” This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.