Let me reflect for a moment… My first look into the Ukrainian culture came in February 1994 when I arrived to live in Lugansk (far east UA). I learned much about the culture, life and language that year. I cannot speak with complete authority about the culture here, but after this long, I hope I understand some of it!
The past two years have afforded a chance to see how Ukrainians really live under adversity. Of course, for some, maybe the 70 years of living under communism, or the first 20 years of “freedom” in Ukraine helped prepare. Yet, can anyone really be prepared for what comes at you when war breaks out.
That first year, especially the first summer, I was really impressed with all that people, especially evangelical churches, did to soften the blow. Many opened their homes or churches to complete strangers. Churches in the western parts of Ukraine sent lots of food and clothing to other cities where internally displaced people (IDP’s) congregated.
People began organizing to meet IDP’s as they exited the trains. “Comfort” stations opened up in many train stations, offering people hot soup or other food products for free. Truckloads of food and other help would show up at churches in eastern cities.
After people realized that the war wasn’t going to end any time soon, more permanent things began to happen. Help centers in several large cities have opened where IDP’s and soldiers can go to receive assistance. In many large city train stations, a military help centers have opened to offer hot coffee and food to soldiers traveling to and from the front.
Another effect of the war… seeing soldiers all over the city. Just today as I sat in a restaurant, a large group of soldiers entered. The trains and busses are full of soldiers.
Probably the hardest effect for me… the sound of the ambulance roaring by. You see, my apartment sits between the airport and the military hospital. When I first moved to Dnipropetrovsk in August 2014, it was difficult to have the windows open since it was not uncommon for 8-10 ambulances to come by at one time.
Fortunately, the ambulance traffic has slowed considerably, yet, still every time I hear the ambulance and the police escort, I know an injured soldier must be in transport. It is an immediate reminder to pray for that soldier and his family.
It is a reminder that I live in a country at war.