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Hope for Ukraine: 3 Stories of Hope in the Midst of War

February 24 marked the two year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At World Relief, we commemorated the event by praying and reflecting together with Ukrainians* from across our U.S. offices and around the world. Together, we lament the devastating impact violent conflict has on image bearers of God not only in Ukraine, but around the world. 

Yet, even as we grieve with those who have lost so much to war, we also bear witness to stories that give us hope for Ukraine. Stories of people like Dasha, Ilya and Ludmila. Stories of how God is still moving through generous people just like you to respond during this great time of need.

As fighting continues, an estimated 3.7 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine and more than 6.3 million have fled the country as refugees. Approximately 14 million Ukrainians will be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in 2024, including shelter, food assistance and psychosocial support.

The needs are great, but thanks to people like you, we are responding and creating hope for thousands of Ukrainians. Keep reading to meet just some of the people whose lives we’ve impacted over the last two years. 

Hope for New Life: Dasha’s Story

February 24, 2022 is a day Dasha won’t soon forget. Pregnant with their first child, Dasha was a surgical nurse and her husband was a doctor at the hospital in Mariupol, a city on the southeastern coast of Ukraine. 

They were both working the day Russia invaded Ukraine. What followed was a series of harrowing events. First, their home was destroyed. They took shelter at the hospital, working around the clock to help the sick and injured. 

Then, the hospital was besieged by the Russian military, but the couple managed to escape. When questioned at a military check-point where no medical personnel were being allowed through, they decided to tell the truth — Dasha was pregnant and they were looking for a safe place to rest.

Miraculously, they were allowed to pass the check-point and found themselves displaced in Zaporizhzhia, a city far from their home. As the birth of her child came closer, Dasha and her husband found themselves alone, without the support of their families and community — but help was just around the corner. 

Seemingly by chance, Dasha came across an advertisement for Save a Life, one of our trusted partners in Ukraine. Save a Life operates eight centers for women in need of support across Ukraine. They came alongside Dasha — now the mother of a healthy son! — when she needed help the most. 

Dasha and her son have found hope in the midst of displacement.
Dasha and her son, Yan, have found hope in the midst of displacement.

Dasha shares her family’s journey of displacement and finding help and hope in her own words: 

“In the first days of the war, we were [at the hospital] and were working. It was really hard because the city was constantly under fire. There were many wounded and killed. Many doctors had left. It was very difficult to work because there were few of us…

“Our house was then destroyed. We then started living in the hospital and working around the clock. Then the Russians entered our hospital, and in that moment, we were in captivity. We were not allowed to leave, and there was an order to shoot all the doctors who left the hospital. 

“It was very scary and very difficult because it was inhumane conditions. We couldn’t really help. There were no medicines… There was practically no food or water and there were a lot of people from destroyed homes. We tried to do at least something. 

“Then the main commander who was in charge… left, and we decided to run away. That’s how we escaped. We were lucky that at the checkpoints, where they knew not to let any medical workers out, we decided to tell the truth. Because I was pregnant, we said we were going out of town to the village where I could rest… And they let us out, so we slowly got to Zaporizhzhia.

“When it was almost before the birth, it was difficult for us to settle down. There was no work because no one wanted to hire [Internally Displaced Persons], and so it happened that purely by chance I came across a Save a Life advertisement… They saved me from this situation, they helped me get ready for birth. They were always there for us…

“And for more than a year now I have been here in the center. Almost every week we are here. And we are friends with the girls here. We are very close… They will always support  us, they will always help if something happens. I couldn’t imagine my life if I didn’t end up here… Thanks to these girls and this center, I continue to live.”

We are continuing to partner with Save a Life to bring hope to women and their families in Ukraine. From October to December 2023, we reached 52 moms with education, employment and financial management training and vital financial support through Save a Life Zaporizhzhia.

Hope for Brighter Futures: Ilya’s Story

For young people like Ilya, the war has only added disruption to an already interrupted childhood. For many, this disruption started with the Coronavirus pandemic when schools were closed and children became isolated at home. 

Now, due to safety concerns, many schools continue to remain closed. A majority of Ukrainian youth are not receiving a full-time, in-person school education. In certain regions, an entire generation has missed out on vital educational and social development opportunities.

That’s why we’re teaming up with local partners like the New Hope Center in Zaporizhzhia to walk alongside vulnerable children and youth during this difficult time.

 Ilya has found hope in the midst of the disruptions of war.
 Ilya has found hope in the midst of the disruptions of war.

Through training, life coaching, group games, art therapy and sporting events, the New Hope Center is creating opportunities for youth to connect in meaningful ways. This will strengthen their spiritual, economic and social futures — in the midst of war and, hopefully, long after war has ended.

Ilya shared what this experience has been like for him:

“I had the opportunity to go to a camp away from Zaporizhzhia as a part of this project and take a break from the fear of war. I liked being in this team of other young people. My mental health improved and I was inspired thanks to the people around me.”

At a time where nothing feels “normal,” these opportunities for young people like Ilya to connect, learn and grow together are essential for the future of Ukraine.

Throughout the country, 773 children and youth participated in World Relief supported programs from October through December 2023. Together, we are creating hope for Ukraine by ensuring the up-and-coming generation is not forgotten.

Hope for New Beginnings: Ludmila’s Story

At World Relief, we’ve been welcoming Ukrainians in the U.S. for over two decades. Prior to the war in Ukraine, we had resettled over 13,000 refugees from Ukraine under the Lautenberg Amendment, which offers resettlement to particular religious minorities from the Former Soviet Union. 

When the war began in 2022, our hearts broke for the many Ukrainians we had already walked alongside — many of whom had joined our staff. We immediately began praying and looking for ways to help those seeking safety in the U.S., providing support with housing, medical care, education and more.

Ludmila has found hope in God’s provision of safety and welcome in the U.S.
Ludmila has found hope in God’s provision of safety and welcome in the U.S.

Ludmila, who escaped Mariupol and came to the U.S. in April 2023, is just one of the many Ukrainians who we have welcomed across the U.S. Her words of faith in the midst of chaos are a humbling encouragement in times of trouble: 

“I am 80 years old. I’ve known God for 26 years. One thing I regret is not coming to him sooner because only in him do I find peace and hope for myself. He is the foundation of my life.  

“I am from Mariupol. My house has been destroyed… If I had stayed in Mariupol, I don’t think I would be alive right now. Mostly because I have diabetes and need insulin to survive. 

“In the beginning, I wanted [the war in my city] to end as quickly as possible. Once I started to realize that it was not going to end, I started to have hope in the church. Only faith in God gave me hope… 

“My niece, who already lived in America for a while, recommended World Relief. I didn’t know exactly what it was about, but I prayed and took a chance. Then I decided to fly here. The organization was extremely helpful. The people at the church welcomed me with open arms. I’ve received a ton of help regarding my health, and I’m learning English.

“To people who suffer right now, I would tell them to have faith in the Lord. If not for him, I don’t know if I ever would have known that an organization like this exists… I have never felt alone or unwelcome here. I have met my truest brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Since the start of the war, we’ve helped create hope for Ukraine by walking alongside over 1,000 Ukrainians seeking safety in the U.S.

Hope for Ukraine: Your Story

These stories of hope for Ukraine are only made possible through God’s mercy and the generosity of people like you. As the war continues into its third year, so too does our calling to respond — and you have an important role to play in bringing hope to Ukrainians near and far.

In the year ahead, we are committed to responding to needs directly in and around Ukraine through our new office located in Uzhhorod and by continuing to partner with trusted organizations like Save a Life and the New Hope Center. In the U.S., we will continue walking alongside Ukrainians who have sought safety in our own neighborhoods and communities. 

But we can’t bring hope to Ukraine without your help. Will you join us by responding today?

You can be a part of creating hope for Ukraine by giving today.

* Views expressed by individuals in the video are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect official stances or policies of World Relief.

Kelly Hill is the Senior Content Writer at World Relief. She previously served as Volunteer Services Manager at World Relief Triad in North Carolina. With a background in International and Intercultural Communication, she is passionate about the power of story to connect people of diverse experiences. 

Jack Curham

Jack Curham is the Project Coordinator at World Relief Ukraine. With an academic background exploring the role of religion in the International Relations of Eastern Europe, Jack moved to Ukraine to join the World Relief team responding to the humanitarian crisis in the country in April 2023. In his free time he runs an outreach program teaching the English language at his local church in Ukraine.

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