Nadiya and her two children – one of whom is autistic – were living in a small town in Donetsk region. On the 24th of February, as their town came under heavy bombing, they moved into a school basement. Once the school was destroyed, they returned home and had to shelter for a long time in their dark, unfinished shelter. They spent every moment in there while terrible explosions shook everything around them.
Nadiya, who attends church and prays constantly, suddenly one day had to evacuate on a bus which took her and her two children out of the town.
As they were leaving, Russian tanks began shooting at the bus. Everyone laid down on the floor inside the bus. Suddenly one of the people began singing. One by one, the others joined in. The bus arrived safely at the nearest railway station. When Nadiya and her children got onto the train, her daughter laid down on the floor there too, even though everything was quiet.
Nadiya and her children now live in Rivne in western Ukraine. Over 6.5 million Ukrainians have become internally displaced due to the Russian invasion – while 6.3 million people have fled the country. Rivne region – along with other western regions of Ukraine – has accepted as many refugees as possible, and then more. People who survived the nightmare of war and fled intense conflict have found acceptance, love and kinship far from home.
Recently they were able to go along to a day camp for refugee children and their parents in a quiet, rural location with a pretty lake nearby. The camp was run by Mission Without Borders (MWB) staff in Ukraine, together with volunteers from one of the churches in Rivne.
About 50 children and 50 adults took part in the day camp on May 11th. After everyone met each other, there was a fun and lively singing session. The children were then divided into groups to play a quest game. There were lots of funny tasks to do, and each task was accompanied by a short Bible story. Throughout the event there were two trampolines and an inflatable slide for them to play on, and there were sweets, bananas and juice. Cotton candy was their favourite treat of all. Despite recent traumatic experiences, they enjoyed the event very much.
While the children were playing, some of our staff had conversations with the adults. They have experienced so much pain, tragedy and bitterness. The war has divided people’s lives into ‘before’ and ‘after’. Many people have lost their homes and their belongings. Some lost relatives and loved ones. Children were deeply traumatised and suffered terrible emotional trauma. It will be a long process of recovery for them.