Sunday, February 22, 2015

One Year Later

I clearly remember walking the streets of Kiev a year ago today.  I remember writing a blog post on that day, filled with optimism and feeling very hopeful about what was next for Ukraine.  It seemed there had been a victory.

I remember thinking that the madness and death were finally over.  Little did I know that it was only just beginning.

On this day last year, huddled with the crowd of mourners on a cold February night, I remember looking up at the sky and seeing a drone overhead. It was likely filming the crowds that had amassed in the center square, memorializing the 'heavenly hundred'—the hundred plus fallen men.  For a brief moment, looking up at that drone, I clearly remember thinking, ‘what if the Russians do something in response to all this?’  And then I quickly dismissed that thought, telling myself it was over- the victory had been won.  What could Russia possibly do?
Famous last thoughts I guess….

I walked the streets of Maidan Square again today, on this day of remembrance.

The masses were fewer than a year ago, but there was still a feeling of solidarity among the people and Ukrainian flags flying everywhere with pride.  People are not giving up hope. 

February 22, 2015--one year later
On St. Michaels Square tanks and recovered rockets, had been brought in to make a display of sorts. 

Little boys climbed on the tanks and the military cars, curiously exploring these artifacts of war, brought in from the east.  It felt eerie watching these little boys climb about on this war paraphernalia and ‘play war'- knowing that war is the reality that thousands of young Ukrainian men are facing right now. 

I never thought this is where we would be one year later. And yet, here we are. Tanks and all.

People keep asking me if I feel safe in Ukraine.  I have to say that there are many things that feel odd about living in a peaceful city but knowing that a brutal war wages less than 400 miles away.   Life in Kiev seems normal for the most part, most cafes still appear full and people still go about their day-to-day lives.  Some shops seem to be closing and the economic crisis is starting to hit people’s bank accounts and pockets. The grivna a little over a year ago was 8 to the dollar.  Today it is hovering close to 30.  Prices continue raise daily and that is beginning to take its toll on people—especially those living on minimal salaries and pensions.  

Yet all the while we are living our ‘normal’ or 'safe' lives in Kiev, people remain hiding in basements in some parts of the east. Others remain without water, gas, and electricity or access to regular food. Dozens of elderly have died of starvation or cold.   These facts are devastating.

I am comforted in knowing that we are doing what we can to help, with regular food distributions going in to outlying towns and helping with evacuations when our team can go. I’m blessed to be a part of an organization that wants to be on the front lines offering real relief and real hope.  I know that this situation isn’t nearly as personal to everyone as it is to those of us living here--- but if you feel led to give, please know that 100% of your donations will go relieve direct needs.  You can see videos, pictures and stories, and give through this link to help thousands in Ukraine's east:

It’s been quite a year…but I’m still clinging to hope and trusting in my God who sees the bigger picture.