This afternoon my husband built our son a playhouse. Ten minutes was all it took to assemble the basic sand-colored canvas, another ten to fill it with plush blankets and toys. As the sun streamed through our living room window and my husband marveled at the safe, sweet little space he’d built for our son, I thought of Ukraine.
How many millions of families would wish right now for that safe little canvas playhouse, assembled in more time than it took Putin to turn their homes to rubble? I wonder what they chose to take with them in those ten minutes, as they pulled their babies from their beds and fled.
Viewing war and suffering through the lens of motherhood is a new experience for me. It’s raw and visceral and hard. So much harder than before. I feel connected to the millions of women fleeing Ukraine in ways I’ve never before felt. An experience, it seems, that is clearly felt by mothers all over the world as we hear about women like Lubomira, who fled Ukraine with her three daughters and three-week-old, premature son, leaving behind her husband to the mandated military conscription.
The plight of these women is almost incomprehensible to me. And it’s brought me to tears again and again as I sit with my baby boy.
As I feed him, I think of the children in Mariupol, who have been cut off from food, clean water and basic necessities for weeks.
As I rock him to sleep to sweet lullabies in his nursery, I think of the babies lining the floors of loud, overcrowded bomb shelters.
As I watch his daddy play with him, I think of all the fathers left behind. The women and children who have lost their partners and protectors during the scariest time of their lives. I think about the fact that 90% of the 4.3 million refugees are women and children without husbands and fathers — a million families separated.
Truly, I cannot comprehend the fear, the pain and the suffering. In these moments, I’ve cried out to God for mercy. Lord, what can we do?
It’s easier to shut it out. To turn it off when it all gets too much. When the headlines and images become unbearable. But then I remember, the mothers of Ukraine can’t do the same.
They can’t turn off the bombings, the sirens or the shouts of Russian soldiers. They can’t turn off the cries of their babies, their growling stomachs, their chattering teeth. They can’t distract from the knot in their throat, the pit in their stomach. They don’t get to switch the channel.
And so, nor will I.
I will bear witness to this moment. I will feel it all. I will ask God for the courage not to look away. And I will remember it’s hard for a reason. The pain in my chest. The nausea in my stomach. The knot in my throat. It’s there as a reminder that we’re not meant to shut off from the suffering of humanity. It’s our hearts, our souls, our bodies, telling us to act. To do something, anything, to help.
Will you join me in praying for the mothers of Ukraine, and the millions of mothers caught up in war and violence around the world today?
Thank you for the extraordinary gift of motherhood. Thank you for the way it connects us, transcending culture, geography and time in its shared experience. Thank you that in times like these, it draws out the very best of our instincts to love and support. Thank you that in mothers you created a superhuman strength, one that can come only from you. Grant all of us the grace to channel this type of strength.
Lord, today we see this strength in the mothers of Ukraine. We cry out for your loving protection. We ask that you embrace these mothers in your arms of tender care. Guard them and pour upon them your comfort and strength. Give them the stamina to survive the pain and despair this war has brought. Remind them, Lord, that you have not forsaken them nor abandoned them, even in their darkest hour. Give them the words to comfort their children, and one another, as they are separated from their families by distance or death. Bless them with a peace that surpasses understanding, and remind them of your love for them each and every day.
God, we pray this prayer today not only for the mothers of Ukraine, but for all mothers caught up in war and violence around the world today. Place their hope in you Lord, so that it might renew their strength. Allow them to run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint. Pour out your love and peace upon them, Lord God, on this Mother’s Day, and every day.
In your name we pray,
If you are praying for ways to act in welcome and solidarity with displaced mothers, consider volunteering with us. Learn more here.
Francesca Albano currently serves as Director of Branded Content at World Relief. With a background in Cultural Anthropology and a graduate degree in Strategic Marketing Communications, she connects her interests in societal studies and global cultures with her training in brand strategy and storytelling. Francesca is especially passionate about grassroots community development and the treatment and advancement of women and girls around the world.