What is happening?
On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine by land, sea, and air, in an attempt to overthrow the Ukrainian government and take control of the country. These attacks came from the north, east, and south, where Russia has easiest access. Current reports are that more than 500,000 people have had to flee their homes.
Ukraine and Hungary
Support is being given directly on the ground but also to those in Hungary who are taking in those who are fleeing.
What is CRWRF doing?
CRWRF is partnering with Hungry For Life, an organization that has been working in Ukraine since 2004. Hungry for Life is building a team in Western Ukraine to be able to provide for an influx of refugees coming from the east of the country. At least ten churches in the Mukacheve area have volunteered to become refugee centers, each able to take 100 people. Refugees will be provided with shelter, food, clothing, and other immediate necessities. We are in discussions with our partners in the region for other opportunities to provide direct support to Ukrainians. We are also actively supporting sister churches in Hungary, as they implement the sending of care packages into Ukraine and care for displaced persons who have fled to Hungary to escape the war.
How to support this project
2022 Ukraine Visit Update
In December 2022, Board member Karl Veldkamp and his wife Hetty were able to take a trip to Ukraine and Hungary to check in on the work CRWRF has been supporting there. They were both encouraged and an encouragement to the people there and were so thankful for this opportunity! Some of their stories are shared here.
Some generous people in Orangeville, ON collected the contents of these suitcases - 150 lbs of socks, hats, scarves, gloves, mitts!! These suitcases left for Ukraine along with Board member Karl Veldkamp and his wife, Hetty.
With much thankfulness, Pastor Imre received the suitcases in Miskolc, Hungary who then took them to Berehove, Ukraine. CRWRF has been working with Pastor Imre to give relief to those affected in Ukraine since the war started. We were very grateful to meet him in person and give this additional support of the suitcases!
Pastor Bertalon in Ukraine distributed to the local poor that they support, around 100 people. If they had any left, they would distribute to gypsies and other poor people. We pray that this will be a blessing to our suffering brothers and sisters, and be some relief as they face a harsh, cold winter, as the war rages on.
On Karl and Hetty's first visit in Ukraine, they visited an elderly couple who live in a room adjacent to their son and daughter-in-law. The gentleman suffers from Parkinson’s and dementia while the lady is bedridden. They live in poverty and the family has only an outdoor toilet. CRWRF has been approached to provide an indoor toilet and shower, which would be installed just outside their room. They are so thankful to be visited and any help that can be provided.
CRWRF is thankful that we’ve been able to help people like Sveta and her family. Sveta is the caretaker for both her in-laws, and her mildly mentally handicapped brother-in-law. Her in-laws have very little income, and their home is in terrible condition (a tree growing through the roof!). We were able to provide a stove and winter firewood for them, which is keeping them toasty warm. They are very thankful for the support, and cheerfully welcomed Karl and Hetty who visited them on behalf of CRWRF. Sveta, her husband, and two daughters live down the road, and Karl and Hetty visited them too. Even though they had no power, this family warmly welcomed them and served them hot coffee.
In Ukraine, for many months we’ve been able to fund the provision of firewood, monthly food packages, clothes, and cash. Pastor Bertalan and his team have been working hard to identify those in most need, hand out the provisions, and encourage them with the Word. Recipients haven’t had the resources or physical capability to flee from the country. In Hungary, Pastor Imre and his team have been working tirelessly to gather supplies to bring across the border, if the items have not been available in Ukraine.
As you can imagine, our brothers and sisters in Ukraine are tired and discouraged. As Pastor Imre wrote to us recently, “If one looks to Ukraine, spiritual darkness is still persisting, since there is little Gospel light in this country. But there is literal darkness too, which is very depressing and just adds to the misery of the people affected by this war….In [late November 2022] precision missiles hit the electric infrastructure of Ukraine, so they have major blackouts. This is a very effective way of breaking the morale of the citizens and pushing them back into a “middle age” lifestyle. In many places electricity is provided just 4 to 6 hours/day, but even this only during the nights. So people are forced to adjust to these hours with the hope that they will have a little electricity as scheduled…These blackouts are affecting everything and everybody. Gas heaters which have electric controlling systems are not working. So even if they have gas, heating is not possible. The water pumps and washing machines are not working either. Most of the big shops are closed – even if they have goods to sale – because cash machines, ATMs and other devices cannot operate without electricity. Internet and cell phone coverage is also very unstable. Hospitals are struggling and the listing can go on and on...”
The team have been purchasing generators as they become available. Pastor Imre shared that these have been hard to acquire, even in Hungary. And to make matters worse, gas isn’t readily available in Ukraine to power them.
When visiting our partners, we feel privileged and honored when we can join our brothers and sisters in Christ in worship. It is amazing to experience unity through the Spirit, even across cultural and language barriers!
In Ukraine, Pastor Bertalan visits the small village of Mukachevo every Friday evening to lead a worship service for them. He also accompanies the singing on his guitar. About 15 people attend every week.
In Hungary, Karl and Hetty were able to worship with the brothers and sisters in Miskolc, at the Reformed Presbyterian Church pastored by Pastor Imre. Since it was January 1st, there were some special celebrations after the worship service, which included a meal and some games. Over the past year or so, this church has been able to help about 100 Ukrainians, including refugees who have passed through Miskolc to other places of safety.
One of the refugee families is Pastor Itsvan, together with his wife, mother, and three children. This family lived in Uzghorod, Ukraine. In February 2022, everyone in their area had to leave with just a few hours notice. Since he already knew Pastor Imre, they decided to travel to Miskolc, Hungary for safety.
Since the start of the war, the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Miskolc has been able to help many refugees by providing temporary housing to them, using the dorms typically used by the theology students. They’ve been housing about 100 refugees in these dorms, up to 40 at one time. Once they’re able, the refugees either move on to other cities, or find their own place in town.
After four months of staying in these dorms, Pastor Istvan and his family were able to find an apartment in town for all six of them. A few weeks ago, a seventh person joined them from the Ukraine. It’s not a large space at all, but it is safe. And they can be part of this church community, where Pastor Istvan helps with the preaching. His wife, Bea, is helping the Red Cross at the border, translating for Russian and Ukrainian-speaking refugees, as most guards only speak Hungarian.
While Karl and Hetty were in Berehove, Ukraine, they met Gabor, one of the recipients of CRWRF’s support. Gabor has diabetes and lost both of his legs about five years ago. He lives with his wife in a modest home where the living room is also Gabor’s bedroom. They have a homemade commode for Gabor and an outhouse. This is an example of a family who has not been able to leave Ukraine during the war, even if they would have liked to. Gabor’s wife, who cheerfully welcomed Karl and Hetty to their home, must work six days a week to make ends meet. Due to the war, work is hard to find, and wages are even lower than before. When she is working, Gabor depends on the help of his granddaughter and neighbour. He spends a lot of time alone, and when the power goes out (which happens daily), there is even less to do, with no radio or TV. Thankfully, with your support, CRWRF was able to help them with purchasing an electric wheelchair for Gabor. This will make it easier for Gabor to get around, and lift some of the burden off his wife, granddaughter, and neighbour.
Another family that Karl and Hetty had the privilege of meeting is Melinda and her family. This is another Ukrainian family that cannot flee the country and that has received monthly relief support through CRWRF. Melinda takes care of her mentally challenged half-sister and her two sons, aged 9 and 14. Her husband is unemployed and can only find occasional work as a casual labourer. He lives in fear that he will be conscripted to fight in the Ukrainian army. The children cannot go to school since classes have been canceled due to lack of electricity and heat. Some families are making do with homeschooling, but with the power going off a lot, computers are also not operating. CRWRF helped them with some financial aid to buy a used computer for the boys. The family, all seven of them, live in two rooms plus an outhouse. They all sleep in the living room. The landlord wants them out, so they are looking for another place to live. It is not easy to find a landlord who is willing to rent to them. Pastor Bertalan and his elder, with the support from CRWRF, with try to help find them something better.
Because Llona (61) is bedridden, she has been unable to flee the war in Ukraine. A stroke nine years ago has impaired Llona so that she is unable to move much of her body except her right arm and her head. She cannot speak but for a few words. CRWRF helped by buying a hospital bed for her so she can sit up and be more comfortable. The bed was delivered the day before Karl and Hetty visited.
Her son (30) lives with her and looks after her. He works as a waiter and pays all the bills but there are no extras. They live in two rooms. Ilona watches TV while her son is away at work. When there is a power outage she lies there in silence, unable to do anything. A neighbour checks in occasionally and a cat keeps her company. She has water and juice within her reach. The son is not eligible to serve in the Ukrainian army as he is her caregiver. This is not guaranteed though, because the army officials sometimes only want to meet their monthly quota. As a result, he stays home except to go to work and to get groceries. He tries to stay out of sight.
Viktoria (34) is a single mom who was diagnosed with a brain tumor that causes balance and coordination problems. She recently had surgery and some basic chemo treatment. So far, her health has deteriorated. But with more specialized treatment, she could make a full recovery. The 10 treatments and travel costs are expensive, and Viktoria and her friends have tried to organize a fundraising campaign without success. Pastor Bertalan and his team in Berehove, Ukraine are helping her and her fourteen-year-old daughter, and CRWRF is funding the extra treatments. We pray that the treatments will be successful in helping Viktoria regain her strength and make a full recovery!
As we reflect on this trip, we are humbled and thankful for the work God is doing with the Ukranian people, despite the hardships they face. Please continue to pray for an end to the war. Pray that the Lord may bless our efforts to give relief to those affected by the war, and that his name will receive honor and glory through the work of our brothers and sisters in Hungary and Ukraine!