"We were absolutely unprotected and vulnerable"

Surviving conflict in Ukraine

“Missiles constantly hit houses. It was dangerous to go outside and for weeks we stayed indoors, often with no electricity or water.

“We ran out of food as well. We survived with the help of our neighbours.” 

Yana, 60, is remembering the first few weeks of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, four and a half years ago. She lives in what was once an ordinary industrial town – but is now caught between two warring sides of the ongoing war.  

Inside Yana’s home, the furniture is worn, and the walls and ceiling are in need of repair. In a tiny bedroom, her husband is bedridden after a spinal injury. There are scattered photos all over the bed that show him and his wife when they were young and healthy.  

As Yana sits next to her husband, he holds her hand and says, “Here is the love of my life.” 

Yana’s two grandsons, Danylo and Maksym, now live here too.  

“Before the war, the boys’ parents had divorced,” Yana said. “Their father went abroad and their mother moved to another town with her sons and remarried. Then the war started, and we were separated from them, as where they now lived was in the occupied zone.”  

Yana began to cry, but her grandson, Maksym said again and again: “Don’t cry Granny, everything is okay now.” 

Yana continued, “Soon, the boys’ mother was diagnosed with blood cancer. She passed away in a couple of months. The stepfather was treating the boys badly and we were so afraid for them. I knew I had to do something.” 

Maksym hugged his grandmother and said, “When Granny came from Ukraine to the occupied territory to take me back, she was risking her life. On the border we waited for hours in the line on our way back to Ukraine. We were absolutely unprotected and vulnerable.” 

“It was dangerous to go outdoors and for weeks we stayed inside...They reached Yana’s home safely – but still the war goes on. All around them are destroyed buildings and the sound of machine gun fire. The most vulnerable are the elderly, the children and those who live in such poverty they cannot afford to move and have nowhere else to go. 

The local church has continued to reach out and do everything they can for those suffering here. Mission Without Borders (MWB) has partnered with them to distribute Operation Christmas Love parcels to people living in the conflict zone, including to Yana and her family. 

The parcels contain food and other essentials, treats and Christian literature – and Yana was overjoyed to receive one. 

And in this small, vulnerable home in the midst of a terrible conflict, as Yana and her family survive from day to day, their love for one another – and the love the church has shown them – is a bright light in all the darkness. 


1,700 Operation Christmas Love boxes will be distributed this year in Ukraine's conflict zone

Give a box of Christmas love