The war in Ukraine has led to millions of externally and internally displaced people. Most of us have watched from afar as communities have been devastated, homes have been destroyed, and families across Ukraine have been torn apart throughout the last year. Separation, grief, and loss have followed Ukrainian women and children across continents.
It is hard for most of us to imagine what it is like to be a refugee. What do you truly feel when you have lost almost all your personal belongings and left everything you know, including your husbands, fathers, and sons?
We talked with and personally met refugees and many pastors and community leaders who are selflessly serving their needs over the last year.
Here is some of what we have learned:
The trauma and grief that most are feeling is a deep wound that is hard to heal
Most displaced Ukrainians long for a time when they can return to their homes.
Many are grieving family members lost forever.
Most internally displaced people or refugees abroad have few personal belongings and no long-term survival plan.
Many refugees are still living in "temporary" housing not suitable for healthy, stable homes.
Many of the refugees arriving in countries like Canada are grateful for the safety of the west but unsure about how they will acclimate to a culture so foreign to them.
The future is uncertain for the majority of displaced Ukrainians. Settling somewhere else in the world is a struggle. It isn't easy to find a new permanent or even semi-permanent home, find employment, learn a new language, and fit into a new community. This journey is even harder while mourning for the home you have lost and struggling with emotional trauma.
What we believe, and what our partners confirm tell us is that the war will not be over soon. This will likely cause an ongoing and even increasing Diaspora of Ukrainians around the world. Soon Ukraine will change its martial law banning males 18 and over from leaving the county to include males 16 and 17. We know the situation will likely get worse before it gets better.
Despite the challenges, there is always hope if one just digs a little deeper and takes the time to look. Those who have made the difficult choice to leave their homes are desperate for community, hope, and peace. I thank God that there are generous, sacrificial people within Ukraine and elsewhere who are selflessly sharing anything they can with those who have lost everything.
As we care for these hurting people we are doing more than just meeting their very real physical needs. Every single bag of food, item of clothing, piece of firewood, garden tool, or personal visit shows people that they are not alone! Yes, we can and will ensure that many displaced Ukrainians have food and vital support. But as we do that, we WILL show people that they are loved and give them hope they thought lost forever.