Spring 2015

March 6, 2015 Arrived in Kyiv without issues, and that was great.  Visiting Kyiv, you would never know that this country is in a battle for their sovereignty and have very little chance to win this battle. russia has already taken Crimea, and parts of the east, and though we were able to regain some of what was lost, it came with a price, of many lives. In Kyiv, people mill around laughing, enjoying life, while just 700 KM away innocent people are dying. But I was glad for calm flights, short connections, and Victor was waiting with Eugina was translating, as Valeryi was busy.  It was great to finally meet him.   We hit the ground running, as usual, so many things to find and purchase, and make sure that you get the most ‘bang for your buck’.  With limited funds, we go to 2 stores to ‘shop it out’.  Victor knows a pharmacy that gives about 40% off, so we place our order for Thursday pick-up.   Finally fall into bed, exhaustion has overcome me, and I’m not thinking straight at all, between the flights, racing through airports, time change, and all the days activities, I’m borderline delirious.  

Very restful sleep, just not enough, needed about 5 hours more.   We have a super busy day, picking up things, and packing to leave.  The plan is to leave by 3 p.m..   Victor has injured his back, and won’t be driving us to Dzerzhinsk, but Vladimir and Alexander will.  Getting around Kyiv is a lengthy process, traffic is unforgiving and we finally pull out of Kyiv at 6:30 p.m..   Drove all night, hitting check point after check point, never knowing if we were going to be denied access, or what?  They don’t like to allow civilians into the conflict zone, let alone foreigners, and an American, and the to top it off a woman! They literally look at me like I’m ‘nuts’, the wave us through.   Finally arrived in Dzerzhinsk around 8 a.m. exhausted.  While the men unloaded the van, I went to the kitchen and started cooking breakfast, as they were all hungry from a long and high stress drive.  We all ate, and they rested.   Seemed quiet, and just like old times.  But never get too comfortable.

Vlad and Sasha wanted to go to the ‘front’ and encourage the men, and drop off aid to them.  Valeryi and I definitely wanted to be a part of that, so around 12 we went to town to drop off the medicine we bought for the Dr. overseeing the medical treatment of the soldiers, and met with some of the soldiers.  The Dr. made some calls, and the next thing we knew, Oleg Vasilenko was in the office ready to take us to the ‘front’.   Seems his soldier friends are all at the ‘water canal’ blockpost, and since it was relatively quiet, it was safe for us to go up and visit them. 

I have never been to a military blockpost, I had been to the encampment at the stadium, but not a place so close to the front lines. I prayed all the way there, thinking it was a distance away, and then all of a sudden, we were ‘there’… it was just 2-3 miles from the edge of Dzerzhinsk. Reality check, we are extremely close to the shelling…

All the way to the block post my heart was pounding…we veered to the left at the fork in the road, and headed in the direction Ghorlovka, via the road to Niketocova, but the road at the water canal was blown out.  We drove about 1 mile and saw a UA army van stopped on the side of the road, and the men flagged us down.  They told us that fighting had resumed, and we needed to ‘wait here’ for a while.   We got out of our van, as we had no idea how long the wait would be, and for us, we had no idea how far away the ‘front’ was.  So we watched as the men worked on the back right wheel and axile of the van.  The men were very nice, and much of the aid was given to them, though some kept to give to the men at the front, if we could get there.   The gun battle was very loud, and there was a lot of talking on radios and phones.  The men decide they need some part from town, and 2 leave in another vehicle towards town.  They are gone about 15 minutes, all the while, there is fierce gun battle, and we are all just literally praying for ‘our’ men.   The next thing we know, there is a car coming from the direction of town, and it is FLYING, they tell us to ‘get back’, and the car pulls up, men jump out, and pull a tire from the trunk, and 3 more men jump into the car and they take off to the ‘front’.    Within minutes the gun battle escalates, and there are many booms, bangs, and automatic weapon firings.  We patiently wait and pray, and talk to the men who resumed working on the disabled van.  They get the tire back on, and they are ready to go.  We are told to wait.  

Just as quick as the fighting started, it ended, and from the time the men zoomed off in the car, to the time we received a call that all was quiet, that we ‘could come up to the front’, was about 15 minutes.  We reload into the van, and start driving, thinking that we had a mile or 2 to get there, and unbeknownst to me, we drive about 400 meters, and there is the blockpost!  We were that close!  We quickly climb out, and grab aid for the men.  We pass one area that are 2 concrete pilings, 2 men are behind and are ‘lookouts’.  Then we come to the open field, and walk about 30 yards, up the incline to the actual baracaide, where there are approximately 18 men.  We can see in the far distance across the once water canal pipe over-pass, that there are at least 4 men on the other side that we can see, but we are told there are more.  We quickly take a tour of the place that these men ‘call home’, cook, sleep, fight…that is it.   We talk and give them some supplies, take some photos, and then encircle them and pray over them.    They thank us profusely.  More equipment is being brought in, when all of a sudden gun fire breaks out.  We look at each other and start to run to the car, when Oleg says, ‘stop, we need to go together as a group’.   Oleg, myself, and Vladimir call to Valeryi and Sasha (who are both admiring the automatic big gun that was just brought in; but they don’t seem to hear us.  The 3 of us take off running, and we get to the clearing in the field, and they start firing at us.  I clearly remember that, as I ran for my life to the van.  I turned and Valeryi was finally coming…Sasha was way far behind.  I turned on my camera and filmed Sasha running through the clearing, like a moving target, but he made it back to the van safely. Total craziness, but we accomplished what we set forth, to encourage the men, and we could clearly see the trust we put in God to come that far to just give them gifts and talk to them. 

We returned to the hospital where I had left my car, and Oleg insisted that we come to his place for tea.  I’m thinking, after that experience, I need some TEA for sure.  I really have a clearer understanding of the PTSD that these men are feeling, and really any soldier or civilian in the area.  Just the short time I was there, I was still shaking from the experience. 


We really do live in a small world.  We arrive at Oleg’s place, and we go in and meet his wife, Lyuba, and I’m thinking, she looks familiar…then we go in and sit down and start to talk, and Oleg tells me that his son worked on our building!  Precisely, he laid all the bathroom tile!  I immediately asked about his foot, since while laying the tile, he sliced the top of his foot open with a hand saw, while cutting tiles.  They could not believe that I remembered that, or even cared, and were appreciative that I cared so much.   Oleg is anxious to show photos of his family, and while looking at the photos I notice a girl, Liliya, who used to work at the ‘shelter’, and had since moved to Novghovosk to live and worked at the internot (Children’s Shelter) there.   She and her husband even adopted a little girl from the Dzerzhinsk shelter. I asked, ‘who is this girl.’ And Oleg answered, ‘that is my daughter…’ and we said simultaneously, ‘Liliya’.  The mom and dad both looked at me as if to say, ‘how did you know that.’  And I proceeded to tell them that I have known their daughter for 15 years, as she worked at the local shelter.  They were in disbelief.   It was a great afternoon of fellowship with fellow believers, sharing of old times, and new experiences, and prayers for Ukraine.  I invited Oleg and his family to services, and offered any assistance with the soldiers that he may need.   His wife is cooking 2 meals a day for the men, so she is exhausted, and her kitchen literally has a 12 in x 12in counter space.  

We said our ‘goodbyes’ to Vlad and Sasha praying over them for a safe journey, as they were returning to Kyiv, and us to the center.  We were still exhausted from the all night drive, and still had not unpacked one thing. 

Exhausted to the bone, we unpacked and then headed to the center where Nastia and Artum arrived, so very happy to see us.  They immediately called other kids and the next thing we knew Olya, Rada and Artur arrived.  It was a happy reunion!!  

Saturday – the sounds of bombs in the distance, and machine gun fire most of the night, but during the day, it is relatively quiet with only a few unexpected bombs, ‘here and there’.  Of course, that is the alarming part, you never know when it is going to launch.  Kids arrived at the center at 2, and it was a time of reconnection, and catching up.  Had 2 families come for aid, but we are now only giving aid on Sunday’s, once a month.  This is against my best judgment, as what about those families that arrive the day after the distribution!  So, basically, we allow Sasha to believe what he wants, and we continue to distribute as needed, but now requesting documents from the families, as we want to make sure they aren’t just selling the food at the market, since food is scarce.    We did find that people were faking their ‘need’, if you can believe that!   But this is only a few, so can’t condemn a whole country for the greed of a few.

Our first Sunday was amazing.., 47 people, they just kept coming, and the majority wanted food and diapers.  Those are the ‘mainstays’, food and diapers.  Forget clothing, they want food.  What we have found though, is that some really don’t need, but that they are stock piling food, for when they project that there will be food.  Prices are over the top, and continue to climb.  The U.S. dollar has amazing exchange and purchase power, but for those using only ghrivna, they are seeing their once 3gh bread, now climb to 10gh, and they still have not received a pension in 2 months, or a salary in 3.  People are fairly desperate.  Banks are only allowing for ‘withdraws’ on a few days, but getting money on your card remains consistent.   Lines at the banks are very long, as some have relatives that are sending funds from other cities, and they are able to take ghrivnas out of the bank in 500 increments.  Nothing smaller.  Small markets only take cash, and some people can only put money on their cards.  Stores that take cards, increase their prices to gouge people, so even in this terrible time, people are greedy against their own people.  It is a vicious circle, in that they don’t have money, then someone offers to send money, at which it only goes on a card, which provides them money, but at limited stores, which remove a  .5 % for the handling fee..     That doesn’t seem like much, but wages haven’t increased at all, and in some situations, people are not getting paid at all.  Pensions are 3 months in the ‘rears’, and people just do not have money for food, or anything. 


Activities around Dzerzhinsk are a bit interesting.  We are seeing more and more UA army trucks pulling in, tanks, and artiliery.  This is comforting, yet at the same time it can’t help but bring us to the conclusion they are preparing for ‘something’.  That ‘something’ is what is scary.  I don’t really know ‘how’ to prepare, I have boxes packed, but furniture is not, we will lose everything, if UA is not able to withstand the force of RU.  We are prayerful and hopeful.

After the Sunday ‘rush’ at the church, we were able to serve 45 families, which is what we were aiming for.  We had people coming all afternoon, and we were able to give them ‘something’, even if it was not a full box.    Monday we will be assessing the process, and looking at how we can improve the efficiency of the distribution.  So many people in need, on top of so much corruption, makes it difficult to see who needs, and who does not.  We must create a way to curb the corruption, yet show the love of Christ, in this very dark place.

Monday, called Julia, a fellow volunteer here in Dz.  to check and see how we can assist in their work.  They have been helping and continue to serve basically the soldiers.  We are serving both IDP’s (Internally Displaced Person’s) and soldiers.  They needed a few things that we have on hand.  God continues to amaze me, that when I don’t think I have something, I will find it, and be able to give it to the cause.   Rich and I basically decided that I would pack up the houses and when leaving fill the van, and drive to Kyiv with a full van.  By doing this, it has given me the opportunity to really sort through things, and give away a lot of things we just don’t need.  It is really great, and has been good to see the blessings that these things that we were not using, but could bless another.   We never want to ‘store up treasures in barns to decay’, but want it to go to someone to ease their burden of the situation.

In Ukraine, (and probably other countries), if you are in the hospital, your family needs to provide for you, food, sheets, medicine… basically all the hospital staff does is ‘administer’ the medicine you have purchased at the hospital pharmacy…talk about a ‘racket’! Remembering that the soldiers in our community are not from our community, thus they have no one to do any of this, and the military does not provide assistance to their own men/women. We bring sheets, towels, clothing, but most of all, FOOD. We have 3 groups that take turns providing 2 very hearty meals a day to the wounded. Never in my life did I think that this housewife from Tallahassee, FL that all she wanted to do was help children, would now be seeing wounded military people, and serving them food, fulfilling clothing requests, praying over them…never did I envision this…but here I am, this is where God had placed me. Total reliance on Him, because, Teresa…well, Teresa wants to go home, back to safe and comfortable America, but this is where He has placed me, so I must trust that this is where I’m to be.

We started our hospital visitation, and with Julia met 17 soldiers that needed help.  They were very much ‘alone’, and didn’t even have a pair of pants to change into.  Some were receptive to help, others not so much, but when they realized that we were there to help, they were more ‘open’.   We took orders to clothing sizes, as we would return later with the evening meal, and if time allowed, I would get the clothing to take with me. Some of the men ventured out of the hospital in their uniforms, and were beat up by local resisters, so they have asked for some civilian clothes so they could (if they could), go to the local market and get snacks and drinks, if needed. And since I constantly ship clothing to UA, I had a surplus of clothing, and gladly brought it for distribution.

We met Yuri today, about 28 years old, had half his nose torn off by shrapnel, we arrived to his room, last on the end of the hall, and there he sat on the bed, in full combat clothing, boots, jacket, gun, just sitting on the bed.  I think we startled him, but then after thinking, I think he was in ‘shock’.  Not from us, but from going from combat, to wounded, to sitting in a room all by himself, quiet.  That is a shock to the system, to say the very least.  Goding from the intense noise to complete quiet, it is very difficult… We introduced ourselves, and offered clothing for him to change to something more comfortable.  He took the clothing, but he really just looked ‘numb’.  It was very sad…he was very dirty, and just looked exhausted, both physically and mentally.  He even commented, ‘I’m just so tired.’   We didn’t stay long, but gave him our number and said, ‘please call if you need something.’   I wanted to cry, but I knew, I could not, that would not be the right thing to do…crying is for later, alone in my house, where no one can see your pain…people (soldiers and civilians) are still in shock that this is even happening to them, and that their ‘relatives’ (the russians) are attacking them. I don’t know Yuri’s back story, as everyone has one…don’t know where he is from, does he have a family…just that he is clearly in shock and no one is helping him at all. He was placed at the end of the hall on purpose; but I’m going to return in the evening to bring him food, and check on him.

Next were 3 men in a room, had just arrived, and were in need of personal care bags.  Many years ago, I coined that phrase, and designed the bags so that they would provide immediate items for those in immediate need.  Toothbrush and paste, comb/brush, soap, shampoo, lotion, wash clothing, black socks, pen and pencil, chap stick, and extras like dental floss, conditioner, flashlights, and always a scripture tract.  The men love it, as they don’t really have all those items.  We also offer the men, Bibles, Suduko, ‘street clothing’, slippers, towels and blankets, if they need.    We are now feeding the wounded soldiers 3 times a week, with another group helping the other times.    Each time we see the men we encourage them, and learn more and more about them.  Each time it encouraged me, but also saddens me that they feel so isolated, since our town is so divided.  People think that if the war just stopped, and the fighting stopped that RU would just ‘go home’.  They won’t, and the RU news is full of lies and misinformation.  Many people sit glued to their t.v.’s the only source of news, and believe whatever is said, but it is like this in many countries.

March 17, 2015 – The fixers!  God’s always amazes me with the paths that He takes me down.  After meeting Oleg Vasinlenko on the day we arrived in Dz. (March 6, 2015), and realizing that we have several common friends; he was feeling more comfortable calling and asking for help with serving the army.  We were called this morning to go to ‘New York’ and meet the 2 new batallions that just arrived for ‘reinforcements’.  We gladly did this, and took along blankets, socks, clothing and a few snacks.  We wanted to go and assess the situation and see what we could assist them with before we took things that they didn’t need.  We departed Dzershinsk and made our way to ‘New York’.  Arriving we found a plethora of military trucks, most VERY old, about 15 men, as the rest were at the block post.  They were happy to see us, and greeted us kindly.  That is one thing I can say, is that the UA army men are very nice, polite and grateful for help.   We explained who we were, and that we were here to HELP with whatever we were able to help with.  They shared that they needed blankets, bedding, anything to sleep on; truck spark plugs and wires, and they would appreciate food.  We set up for the food delivery , made a list of all their needs and we left.  My wheels were turning in my head, as I knew we could assist them…as we are the fixers! 

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