[Fourth in a series]
Eyewitnesses somewhere near Sumy, Ukraine April 19 – Roman Skalsky can now offer first-hand testimony to the horrific evil of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Today he came within 10 miles of the Russian border in easternmost Ukraine, delivering relief and rescue supplies.
“We have seen heartbreaking disasters,” Skalsky said in an interview with Heartfelt Radio (WKJA, 91.9 FM) earlier today. “We’ve stopped in places such as Bucha (where hundreds of civilians have been murdered). A Ukrainian security guard showed us a Russian tank, destroyed, with three bodies still inside.”
Skalsky was part of a team which delivered bulletproof vests, medical supplies, and food earlier today to Ukrainian forces near the front lines of the (now renewed) fighting in Eastern Ukraine.
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“We had a meeting (early today) with border troops (who are) fully equipped,” Skasky adds. “Young men, some middle aged. Heavily armed. We gave them food. We provided them with several bulletproof vests and medical supplies.”
OFFERING HOPE DESPITE THE HORROR
What Skalsky and the other members of the Slavic Full Gospel Church have witnessed in Ukraine is very difficult to describe. All the horrors of war accompany many team members. Here’s a simple example: Air raid sirens warn of possible bombing attacks every night in Khmelyntskyi in central Ukraine. making it difficult to even get a night’s rest.
“We distributed food to 1,600 people in our first two days (in Ukraine) in one church,” Skalsky explains. “It seems that every church in Western Ukraine is now hosting refugees from Eastern Ukraine. Some of their (the refugees’) houses have been destroyed and burned down. Many don’t know what will happen to them tomorrow.”
Team members are also talking with and assisting refugee widows and orphans, people whose fathers were killed by the Russians during rescue missions. One man, Mikhailo Tsuprun, volunteered to deliver humanitarian aid from the Rivne area to the Kiev area when much of Kiev was under Russian occupation. The Russians killed him on one of his aid missions. He leaves a wife and seven children.
“I see these people. No hope. Displaced. Heartbroken. Asking for your protection and healing,” Skalsky said while praying on Hearfelt Radio earlier today. “We ask for your power to stop this horrible war, this horrible bloodshed.”
One objective which the Slavic Full Gospel team is striving mightily to do is provide hope. For example, there’s a Gospel pamphlet inside every bulletproof vest. Team members are also handing out Ukrainian translations of the New Testament to those they meet.
NO RULES OF WARFARE, NO CONCERN FOR THEIR OWN
Skalsky and others have now seen the ravages of Russia’s invasion up close. It’s devastating and shows a complete lack of regard for human lives, even those of their comrades.
“On the main street in Hostomel, Russian tanks knocked down fences, and positioned their weapons all over that city,” Skalsky describes. “There’s not one single building standing there intact. It is heart breaking.”
It’s also apparent to Ukrainians that Russian forces don’t even make an effort to retrieve their own war dead,” Skalsky explains. “Russia doesn’t want to tell their people that their soldiers are dying, so they’re (lying) just telling their own people that the soldiers are missing.
“One more very important and very compelling thing: Ukrainian people are so United, from east to west, north and south,” adds Skalsky. “They are all disgusted by such ruthless atrocities and the brutal lies by the Russian federation.”
By comparison, Ukrainians place a high value on human life. Rescuers such as Tsuprun are sacrificing, even giving up their own lives to help the imperiled. Here’s just another example: Skalsky and others with him stopped in Kharikov on the way back from their visit to the front to pick up a widow and her five children, and to move them to relative safety further west in Ukraine.
The Slavic Full Gospel Team is in its last days of providing humanitarian aid and rescue assistance. It’ll be returning to Northeast Ohio soon, but more teams will follow. You can help their cause by donating any amount to help support this relief effort. Here’s the link for donations:
FINAL PART TO COME – Hear their stories, and find out more ways you can help
NOTE: Eye on Cleveland founder John Kerezy, associate professor of Media & Journalism Studies at Cuyahoga Community College, has been communicating regularly with the Slavic Full Gospel Church team in Ukraine and is the author of these stories. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org