Ukrainian Crisis grows, a local church responds
BROADVIEW HEIGHTS May 4 — Tomorrow will mark 70 days since Russia invaded Ukraine. Here is a brief summary of what has happened:
- According to the United Nations, about 5.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine, and another 7.7 million people have been displaced within the country, mainly evacuating their homes in the east and living in temporary refugee centers in the west. This means that about one-quarter of the country’s total population has left their homes. The UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 90% of Ukrainian refugees are women and children. Poland alone is now home to three million refugees.
- More than 3,000 civilians have died and more than 3,200 have been injured by Russian invaders, but these are just estimates. Reports emanating from Mariupol are that perhaps 5,000+ civilians have been killed in this city alone due to near-continuous Russian artillery shelling and bombing for more than a month. It’s not an exaggeration to say that millions of Ukrainians lived in basements of homes and businesses and schools for a month or longer due to constant Russian shelling and bombing of civilian areas.
- Russian troops have massacred perhaps as many as 1,000 civilians, committing war crimes. Here’s a video about the murdering of 400+ residents of the town of Bucha, near Kiev: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dyia5TSjwFs
- Estimates vary, but probably 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the invasion, and perhaps as many as 45,000 more have been wounded. By contrast, Russia reported 14,400 soldiers killed in 10 years in its war in Afghanistan. We know that 24 Russian generals and top commanders have been killed, an indication that military leaders are being ordered to the front lines in desperate efforts to rally their troops.
- Eyewitnesses report that Russian military forces are not making efforts to retrieve their own war dead from battlefields. Parents back home are simply lied to and told their sons are missing in action. This is having a detrimental effect on morale among its troops.
- Verified battlefield reports indicate that Russian soldiers are deserting their units and/or refusing orders to attack Ukrainians. Some have sabotaged their own equipment. Russia’s military is comprised largely of draftees and conscripts.
- Desperate for fighting soldiers, Russia has resorted to bringing in mercenaries from Syria, Libya, and other nations who either already have or soon will join in on attacking Ukraine. Perhaps as many as 20,000 of the attackers trying to conquer the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine are foreign mercenaries, paid military contract soldiers.
- Russia has continuously escalated its propaganda and disinformation efforts at other nations, especially neighboring countries in Eastern Europe. Here’s an example: When news of Russian massacres in Bucha hit the international media (but not Russia, as it is censoring all media in its country) Russian hackers sent threatening emails to Polish elected leaders and conducted spam attacks on newspapers, TV, and other media in Poland. If you’re interested, read the web site and/or listen to articles here: https://euvsdisinfo.eu/
In Northeast Ohio, one church has been steadfast in responding to these horrors with help and hope, and keeps devising ever-more-creative ways to reach those in Ukraine in need.
“We’re striving to help those who have fled, to bandage the wounds of the injured, and to protect those who are in harm’s way on the front lines in this war,” says Roman Skalsky. Skalsky is the volunteer administrator of Slavic Full Gospel Church (SFG), a Broadview Heights congregation with 90 percent of its members comprised of Ukrainian ancestry. Here are some examples:
- Since the war began, SFG has sent 20+ of its members on relief and rescue missions to Ukraine. They’ve packed 200+ suitcases with first aid kits, tourniquet kits, and bulletproof vests, and taken them to Ukraine. These supplies are going to where they are needed all over the country.
- The church has also raised and spent more than $200,000 in this relief effort. It is sending funds directly to about a dozen churches in Western Ukraine which are serving as makeshift refugee relief centers. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians whose homes have been destroyed are now living day-to-day in these churches in Western Ukraine.
- SFG has purchased tons of medical supplies and is shipping them to Ukraine.
- SFG has sponsored more than a dozen refugee families to come to the U.S. under the State Dept’s TPS (Temporary Protected Status) program.
SFG’s efforts have attracted the attention and support of its neighboring church, Cuyahoga Valley Church. The two churches are just two doors apart from each other at the Wallings Road exit off Interstate 77. But the Ukrainian crisis has brought them even closer together.
“Our members have witnessed the horror happening in Ukraine, and they are responding with open hearts and open wallets to help,” says Chad Allen, lead pastor at Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC). “Our founding pastor Rick Duncan spoke at a service at SFG in March. We’ve encouraged our members to give to SFG’s relief efforts, and we’re helping our sister church with its fund raising.”
Allen added that CVC’s disaster relief team is now meeting regularly with counterparts at SFG, and some CVC members will be accompanying SFG members on a future relief and rescue trip to Ukraine. CVC is also assisting SFG in collecting and using beds, kitchen tables, refrigerators and stoves, and other furniture for refugee homes.
You can donate any amount to help support this relief effort. Here’s the link for donations:
- Building Hope in the City will be hosting a special open house/informational session for Ukrainian churches and relief organizations in Northeast Ohio on Thursday, May 19 at its Hope Center, beginning at 6 p.m. This non-profit’s Hope Center has been at the forefront of assisting refugees who arrived in Cleveland from Afghanistan in 2021. Watch this website and for details https://www.buildinghopeinthecity.org/
- Plans are also afoot for a special fund raiser on the morning of Friday, May 13. Watch this spot and social media for details.
NEXT: Story and video interview of a war widow who made her way to the Cleveland area along with her 11-year-old son.