Ukraine is a country torn by war and an unjustified encroachment. This country fights for freedom and democracy. Ukraine has been in my heart for over three years. I was planning a mission trip to Kyiv in the summer of 2020, but as you know, 2020 did not go as planned for anyone.
Once the war broke out in February 2022, I immediately started planning a trip to either Romania or Poland to help with the refugee crisis. Unfortunately, I had prior commitments, and the timing needed to improve. So, in late 2022, I started planning again to go into the heart of Ukraine. To see whom I can help and in the ways I can help. I reached out to dozens of organizations and people from around Ukraine and the surrounding nations. Unfortunately, most of it led to dead ends, or I have yet to hear back.
The day before I left for Ukraine, I got connected to Spartan Ukraine and Tactivate; from time to time, work together on donation projects. The people part of Tactivate helps people who struggle with extreme challenges and disasters.
I met them in a launching city in Ukraine after a 15-hour bus ride from Krakow. In this city, the effects of Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s power became clear. The town had rolling blackouts, and businesses and the city maintained minimum power usage even when the power was on. The street lights were always off; the darkness covered the city most of the day. The sounds of power generating sitting outside of storefronts roam the streets.
I traveled with the team to Lviv and Kyiv, delivering donated supplies to a military hospital in Lviv. In Kyiv, we had supplies for different businesses. Along with the trip to Kyiv, we drove up three additional cars for donations to military service members.
After that, we rode down to Dnipro for the night. The sleeping arrangements were cramped for three people. Two of us shared the folded couch, and one got their own bed.
We left at 4 a.m., and we departed for the Donetsk Oblast. We navigated broken roads, military checkpoints, and destroyed cities. I witnessed broken communities and towns once occupied by Russia but pushed back by Ukrainian forces. The sounds of war you hear in the wind, artillery fire, gunshots, and explosions. We visited different military bases delivering aid and supplies to soldiers.
Kam’yanka, a town Russia and Ukraine fought for early on in the war. On April 1st, it was confirmed that Russia had full control of the city. The victory was short-lived. By April 18th, Ukraine ultimately pushed Russia out, but the town was wasted and abandoned. The above photo is a bus stop, untouched for almost a year. The photos directly below show the city’s damage and the war’s costs.
When we returned to Dnipro, we split ways, and I visited the Dnipro apartments that Russia ruthlessly attacked. On January 16th, forty-five people died, including six children. The rubble was being cleaned; memorials were set up around the flats. After, I went to the train station to go to Kyiv. While I was waiting, we went under bomb threat and into the shelters under the station for about thirty minutes.
In Kyiv, I prepared for the journey back to Krakow. A ten-hour train ride, plus two additional hours at customs, and then a four-hour bus ride. I arrived at three o’clock in the morning.
I stayed in Downtown Krakow, where I could explore and walk around the city. There is a lot of support for Ukraine; you can donate at any shop or the local church, as well is a strong military presence in the area.
My trip to Ukraine was unplanned and unexpected, but it came out as a journey of a lifetime.