Back into the Abyss

July 27, 2015 – My 3 week rotation is over, and I’m back to Ukraine with 120 uniform sets, 35 pair of boots, 100 t-shirts, and a lot of other misc. military gear.  The airport was shocked when we brought in so much luggage, 12 bags in all.  Sadly, they refused to help us on the bags at all, and I had to pay $2260.00 in fees!!   Got through all the airports, and then off to Kyiv, where we expected a ‘search’ at customs check point.  Nicholia (SBU) was to call ahead and make arrangements for me to get through without ‘issue’, so we shall see.  The luggage takes forever to arrive, and I line up the 5 carts at the ‘customs’ area, and there are 3 customs agents waiting…so I wait, after about 15 secs of silence, I look at them and ask, ‘do you need to check this?’….they all look at me, and one woman replies, ‘no, you can go.’   I about fell over!  Never have I seen this, with all this luggage, just walk through customs.  Nicholia ‘came through’, as did God!!   Amazing.  

A fellow volunteer, Alexander is picking me up, and after a search we find one another, as I could not leave this luggage unattended.  Alla was completely past the point of exhaustion, and was not any help, she could barely walk, and had had 3 nose bleeds on the flight, so she was weak too.     After loading all the luggage, we stopped for a soda and had the chance to meet Alexander’s wife and son.  Alexander would like to spend time with us in Dzerzhinsk, but his son has an eye problem that keeps him in Kyiv driving him to and from the Dr. for appointments.  Maybe in August, he will be able to come and stay for a while. 

The Abyss – after a very busy day of soldiers at the center for showers, taking them back, and then taking a tour of the ‘front line’ encampment, clearly, we are under ‘gunned’.  The living conditions are o.k., but primitive to say the least.  The men have done a VERY good job of building with the tools and materials they have, but still, it is what it is.  They even have a garden!!  As we leave, the men ask if we are interested in really helping them.  We of course ask, ‘how’…and they explain that they would like us to have a radio transmission over their walkie-talkie’s in English…seems the enemy has been able to hone in on their frequency and listen to their conversations, so we decided to give them something to listen to!   We agree, and they ask us to return at 5 p.m. for the conversation.  Paul, Sima and myself practice what we say and how to say it…  We get the call to head towards the block post, but 1/f way there, Kolia calls and says that they are being shelled, and to ‘wait’.   We stop on the road and wait for about 10 minutes, we can hear the shelling from the 3 pt. crossing…  Paul would like to move closer, so I agree to move down just past the electric train post.   The shelling is much louder there, as is the machine gun fire.   The firing continues, but Paul urges me to move closer, so that if we get the ‘go ahead’, we will be close enough to make it quickly there.   I move again to the last house before the ‘white cross’, and we sit and wait.  The fighting is intense, and loud.   We sit quietly, as we all know what is going on, and each of us deal with it in our own personal way.  All of a sudden, we hear a very loud hit, seems to be behind us, thus they went over the top of us, hitting past us, meaning we are in the ‘line of fire’.  I move quickly to turn the car around and go back towards town…we can hear the firing out the open windows, and it is all around us, and God just gets us back to the zone where they may not reach us.  At that point, I make the decision that this isn’t going to let us, and we need to return to the center.  It is just too noisy and we don’t see a ‘end’ to it. 

We return to the center, where Vika is waiting with open arms for Paul, Sima and myself.  She was, and rightfully so, worried, and praying for our safe return.  We aren’t there 10 minutes, and Kolia calls saying that it has calmed and wants us to return.  We eat very quickly and then back in the van to the block post.   This time, it is almost dark, and I need to turn off the lights as we approach the post.  I can’t see, and I know there are trees in the road, as they put them there for barriers.   I flash my lights just once so that I can see the road, and pull into place, the guys are at the block post, and they come to escort us to the block post shelter.   Once at the shelter, we talk with the commander about the dialogue, what to say, what not to say.   We can hear shelling in the distance, and it is a very intense situation..  My adrenaline is running very high.  Finally, we receive the ‘go ahead’ and Paul starts the dialogue.  We become Alpha 1 (Paul), Alpha 2 (myself), and Alpha 3 (Sima).  We had rehearsed, so that we could be clear and concise.  The talk was about getting people in place for a ‘mission’, thus there was a lot of ‘check your position…are you in place….move forward 50 yards….retract your team.”  We went on like this for 15 minutes, back and forth.  At the beginning, things were quiet, it was as though they were listening to us, and maybe they were…  that we will probably never know, but we tried to made our point…’we are here’.  As we left the block post all the men thanked us for ‘trying’ to side track the enemy.  ANYTHING we can do to help. And I never really feel we do enough.   They asked us to return the next night and do it again.   As we drove home, we could hear the bombing start again…praying our guys are o.k., praying that if they heard us, they may a little fearful of ‘what’ may be out there. 

7/29/15   my hands are trembling as I type this, 2:34 a.m. I was woke by a ‘flash’, and a huge bomb, seemed like it was outside my window, though it was probably more like in the fields to ‘New York’.  BUT nonetheless, close to us.  This was repeated over and over, lots of whizzing of bombs or bullets, or something.  I decided that I needed to pack and also wake Alla and have her pack.  There was a huge bomb and we lost electricity, so now packing by flashlight.  I’m upset with myself, as I meant to do this about 3 nights ago, and didn’t.  So now I do this in the dark and probably forgetting ½ of the stuff I intended to take.  Most will get left, just some clothing, shoes, and a few personal items.  It is all too much.  I’m trembling, as I wake Alla, trying hard NOT to alarm her, but the flashes out the window and bombs are intruding on my ‘calm’ approach.  She gets up and starts to pack, hearing the danger, no one has to say a word. 

3:20 a.m. we walk over to the center to check on Sima and Kristina and see if there is any news from any of our men at the front.  There is a HUGE full moon and it is beautiful.  So very sad of the devastation that I’m sure was inflicted by those bombs.   The girls are up and say that they have heard nothing from the men concerning ‘leaving or  staying’….etc..  Sima tries again to reach them, and they say that all is ‘under control’….we are questioning that!  The noise is out of control, and flashes of light, look like a lightening storm.    Sima also was woke by the flash, and had been up since we had been.

We talk for a while, and then prayed, and decide to wait till morning to figure out what, if anything, to do.   Alla and I return home and try to sleep.

4:10 a.m.  more rockets and bombs, whizzing noises and seems ru is telling us again that they are ‘out there, and not giving up.’  !    After about 10 minutes, it is over, and now quiet.  4:21 a.m..


Each morning is a re-assessment of the night before.   Because all is fairly quiet in the day, we have a false sense of security.  We go about our day to day activities, with hearing a few bombs in the far distance, but for the most part, we move without consequences…but then night falls.   I hate the night…we just never know what is going to happen.  The enemy uses the night to lash out in the darkness, so that their victims are faceless, nameless, innocent civilians.  Cowards, all of them…

I finally drifted off to sleep probably 5 a.m…, waking at 10 a.m., which is so ‘not like me’, but the sleepless nights, and interrupted sleep is getting to me.  We push the days with camp for 4 hours, driving campers to and from the camp, and then kids in the afternoon…then no sleep at night.  I keep thinking, if the group had stayed, they would have definitely left after last night.   And what will tonight bring…

2:10 a.m. I wake, I’m not really sure ‘why’ except that maybe my body is so used to it by now, it just wakes by itself.  I drift back to sleep, but at 3:20 I spring up, woke by a CRACK of a bomb, and boom so loud that I immediately go into panic mode.  My breathing is short and my hands are shaking, my adrenaline is shooting through the roof.  I can feel my heart racing, as I try to decide what is the best option.   I go and check Alla, but she is already up, using the restroom.  That is one thing that we do, is use the restroom, in anticipation of having to go in the cellar, and maybe losing water, flush all toilets.  You never just leave dishes in the sink to be done the next day…everything is clean and put away before bed, as at any given point, a bomb can hit the water station, electric station, and we can be without a utility for days or weeks.  A person needs to constantly ‘think ahead’, having water, supplies, and clothing, near the entrance to the cellar.

We stand in the corridor of the house and listen…boom, boom….silence, then a HUGE BOOM when it hits.  Over and over, we talk about going in the cellar, which would be very difficult, if not impossible without Alla putting on her shoes.  I can’t imagine other invalids with no one to help them, or that it is impossible for them to go in the cellar.   We decide that we ‘wait’… we stay in the corridor, and wait.  

Waiting is always interesting, because it is like, ‘what’ are we waiting for?  Because if you wait to the bomb hits, that is too late…but few want o go in the cellar, where it is damp and cold, and a very small space.   But waiting is a 2x edged sword.

Thursday night  – Sima, Alla and myself, we leave for Kyiv for a conference on working with people with post traumatic stress syndrome.  I really need a break, but I’m thoroughly exhausted and want to sleep.  Alla and I have top bunks and Sima is next door with some family.  The fellow in our compartment is from Donetsk and is slowly moving his things out of there.  His father lives in Gorlovka; staying to protect property, but he is moving from the area, taking small amounts at a time.  Said that he spent 7 hours at the ‘border’ control that the line was like 2 kilometers!  Said prices are about 3x those of Dz. and 4x those of Kyiv.  Few people are on the streets, and things are somewhat unpredictable.   We had a good train in to Kyiv, and I was able to sleep, though it was how, but I was so exhausted, I rested well. 

7/31/15 – Arriving in Kyiv, we have the day to shop and gather supplies as the conference begins at 6:30.  The transport to the place is 1 hr. 45 min…a long way there, and a long way back, but we go via public transport and then walk the rest of the way.

The conference is useful, though if you are going to speak about something, do a little research on the country, culture, the military situation; as the speaker talked about many ideas to implant, but that without the support of leadership, those great ideas, committees, services, support help, can’t become a reality.  I found most of the information things I already knew, but that it was good to hear again.  Now our job is to find someone to implement these great ideas in Dzerzhinsk.  That will be the next task.  God is able, if we pray over it. 

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