In the above photo you see (viewable if you click the link to go online) one of the relocation centers for the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) because of Russia’s invasion and occupation of pockets in eastern Ukraine. This was an airport hanger but was converted into a sleeping hall for IDPs. The wood on the right is cut and split and used for heating.
Today I was scheduled to go to a “hub” in Kyiv where IDPs are first processed. After the processing they are assigned the location in Ukraine’s free regions where they will be relocated. These are people who have no other relatives or relationships that will provide an invitation to relocate with them. Tens of thousands adults and children from the eastern regions of Ukraine have passed through this center. A large quantity of IDP supplies collected and shipped has been distributed at this location. I cannot imagine walking out of my home with only what I have in my hands, getting on a bus or train and taken to this relocation center and then being told “you go to this place.” Emotionally you would be numb. Physically you would be exhausted. You would not have had a bath for possibly a week. You would not have brushed your teeth for a week. You are wearing the same clothes you left your home wearing. If you have small children they are clinging to you as the only security in life. And you have absolutely nothing to hold on to for security. Everything that offered security, smiling memories, and the hope of the future is forever gone. Unimaginable emotions!
As they leave they are given a box and a sack with food, clothing and personal hygiene items. If there are children they will have selected a stuffed animal or another toy and grasp it tightly.
This is real-life in resigned desperation—all is hopeless and you just choose the least bad and numbly stumble along the route where directed. Hope is gone.
This is the reality of tens of thousands who have been forcibly displaced by Russia’s invasion and occupation of pockets in eastern Ukraine.
The relocation center developed in the early weeks of Russia’s invasion of the east. We helped many evacuate Donetsk and Luhansk. There was a special energy given to empty the orphan homes into buses and trains and move them into Kyiv from where they would be dispersed throughout the nation. At the same time we were doing this Russian troops were seizing the orphans and sending them into Russia “because only Russia can protect the children.” This action was never posted in the media but it was a harrowing experience for all involved.
This IDP location was transformed from a deteriorating abandoned airport hanger into a sleeping station for those fleeing Russia’s evil. Over the last three years it has morphed into a better receiving location.
In the early days beds lined from one end to the other with a cloth curtain separating males and females. At first there was no insulation from the cruel winter’s cold but now insulation has been added and that helps with the soon coming cold weather.
Now those cots have been replaced with wood bunk beds and a more permanent wall. There are two large sections where bunk beds are lined and linens are spread for those needing a place to sleep during their transition.
The mattresses on these beds were supplied from Harding University as it replaced dorm mattresses and our warehouse warriors loaded them into the containers. The linens and blankets were shipped as we received them from WestArk’s C.U.R.E. ministry. Almost everywhere I looked I saw items that we had sorted, loaded and shipped!
Today we unloaded more mattresses that were loaded and shipped from Judsonia on June 3, 2017. There were also five more Family Buckets found!
I asked if there were still people coming because they had been unable to stay in their homes due to the war. I was told that this week five families came through this relocation center and every time Russia resumes its artillery barrages consequently more are forced to flee for safety.
The impact that is being made on these individuals is unknown but the appreciation is genuinely expressed.
Yesterday as I watched the widowed mother with her three children I saw her reach up and wipe away tears as she slowly touched the label that had been put onto the Family Bucket in the Judsonia warehouse.
Thank you for your prayers and concerns on this mission trip.
John L. Kachelman, Jr.