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Andriy and Yana and their children are refugees from eastern Ukraine experiencing the power of God’s word thanks to you.

The long read: ‘We lost everything, but we found God’

What happens when you give money for someone to have a Bible? It helps people and changes lives. This is the story of Andriy and Yana.

Andriy and Yana have fled the Russian invasion twice. Their home was in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, in the East of the country, which has been under Russian attack since 2014.

Russian-backed troops based themselves near the young family’s home. The terror of it caused their son Maksym, then two years old, to stop speaking.

The family fled to Mariupol. All seemed well. They bought a house, and spent nearly eight years renovating it. They moved in earlier this year. What happened next changed their lives forever.

Mariupol came to symbolise the viciousness of the war in Ukraine, as a relentless assault hit the city.

After just a few days, back in February, the bombardment was approaching the family’s lovingly renovated home. They hid in a tiny cellar underneath an outdoor kitchen. The space was just 1.8 m x 2.2 m. They lived there for three months, cooking outside on an open fire in breaks between shelling. Their house was destroyed.

Andriy describes the scene: ‘One day was like a year. You want to sleep all the time, you are tired,’ he says. ‘It was exploding all the time, you hear windows rattling, and the lid of the cellar too. Once something exploded very close, the whole cellar was shaking.

‘You need to get out to cook food. Yes, it was easier with mines. You hear their whizz and can hide. But then every 20 minutes a bomber plane was coming to throw new bombs on the city, and you just cower and listen. Is it right above your head or further away? It was very hard to tell for sure. Anyway, it threw bombs and returned. So, we had 20 minutes before it returns.

‘That was going on all the time, except for nights. At night, we were being shelled by the Grad missile launchers.’

As Mariupol fell, the family fled, hitching a lift in an old van with 18 other people. The van’s engine wasn’t functioning, so it was towed by a neighbouring family in their car.

They found shelter in a church school which has been turned into a help centre, in the western town of Lviv. It was here that they came across the Bible for the first time. Both Yana and Andriy had heard of the Bible when they were children but ‘not seen any correlation between it’ and day-to-day life.

Their journey of faith began under fire in Mariupol as they queued for food outside a shop. Russian bombs fell just 10 metres away. ‘Faith started at that point, when God spared all of us,’ says Andriy.

Now, he says, it feels as if God has been ‘guiding us again and again’ as they fled and sought help.

‘You start realising that, indeed, God was leading us, again, through a much lighter way than other people,’ says Andriy. ‘We attended several church services until we started to see this. I would even say that this faith starts to grow unexpectedly to us! Because, yes, you know about God, you think about him sometimes, but we never counted on him, on his help. We didn’t know how he acts and what it looks like.

‘From childhood, we had understanding that he will show up to us somehow. But now it looks like he was with us from Mariupol and led us by hand, straight to this church, to great community. He helped in many aspects and gave us understanding that we need to stay here, we need to get baptised. And we know that now, with him, everything would be even more sparing than before. And from now on, we aren’t only waiting for him to act but also try to come closer towards him.’

Thanks to your generosity, the local church was able to give both Yana and Andriy Bibles.

Yana says, ‘What has touched me the most was the story of Abraham. There were so many situations where God intervened and helped him. God didn’t abandon his people.

‘Looking at our situation, it is very similar. We were non-believers, let’s put it this way. But he was still pushing us to what was right. Just like with Abraham.’

The Bible, the local church and being away from the front line, are all combining to give ‘comfort’, the couple says.

‘We try to get busy with work and studying the Bible,’ says Andriy. ‘So, everything that happened to us before, it slowly departs. And the wound in your soul becomes smaller because – and this is how we understand the Bible – we don’t focus on losing our home, we focus on retaining our lives.

‘This is exactly what we are coming to now, that the most important is not the fact that you lost your house, your material belongings, everything. The most important is that we found God and we found good people.’

You can make a difference for more families like Andriy and Yana's. Your donation today will bring hope back to broken lives by sharing God’s word. 

Author: Hazel Southam, 27 June 2022 (Last updated: 15 July 2022)

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