Weekly column from Poland: War resets life


Christian Life

Sashko Nezamutdinov, CNE.news

Ukrainian mother and daughter at a Polish train station. Photo AFP, Wjtek Radwanski

I was waiting at a tram stop after a long day of work at the church's office. Next to me stood a young woman with her daughter, who was about six years old. They spoke Ukrainian with a mixture of Russian. That was nothing extraordinary; we hear Ukrainian and Russian everywhere in Poland now.

The little girl said to her mom: "I want to visit grandma!"

"We will see her soon", the mum replied.

The little girl: "When will we see her?"

Mum: "When we get back home."

The little girl: "When will we go home?"

To that last question, the mother does not reply anymore. Instead, she brings her hand closer to her teary eyes.

Many wish to return home

It has been almost three months since Russia invaded Ukraine and started an unprovoked war. Over 3 million displaced Ukrainians have been staying in Poland since that time.

They choose Poland as their refuge for several reasons. Many Ukrainians already have friends or family here; others stay here because they can easily understand the language.

Sashko Nezamutdinov
Sashko Nezamutdinov (1988) is a minister-in-training at Christ the Saviour Church in Krakow, Poland. He studies at the Evangelical Reformed Seminary of Ukraine (ERSU) in Kyiv. He likes reading about church history (especially Protestantism), the Austra-Hungarian Empire and the Slavic world. In the background, you might hear some jazz or bossa nova.

The Polish government is still going above and beyond to help the people in need, whether it is with accommodation, jobs or humanitarian aid. Ukrainian displaced people do not act like helpless refugees. They are striving to get independent financially as soon as they can.

At this point, more people are returning to Ukraine than people coming into the EU. Most of the people going back are from Western and Central Ukraine. There it's gotten quieter though still not completely safe as missiles hit all over the country.

Like the girl from the tram stop, many are wishing for their return home. Many have nowhere to go as their house there is not safe anymore. And even if it is, often friends or relatives have already moved into it because they have lost their places.

Churches reconsider their ministry

Polish Protestant churches have grown in number. I doubt there is a single Evangelical church (at least in big cities) that does not have at least some Ukrainians that joined its church services.

We have even been doing different worship services in the Ukrainian language in the church that I pastor. Furthermore, we regularly see people attend who used to consider themselves to be Orthodox, Greek Catholic or atheist before the war.

The war has made everybody think, and it resets everything. There will be no going back to the usual and old reality after the war. We will all have to get used to living in a new world.

That is why churches are reconsidering their philosophy of ministry. Everyone tries to accommodate Ukrainians. This is done by providing translations for them during worship services or producing and importing Ukrainian literature into the EU. Furthermore, congregations are organising summer activities for Ukrainian children who will be stuck and bored in Polish cities, as the Ukrainian school year ends in the middle of June.

Most Ukrainian children in Poland still attend classes in Ukraine remotely over Zoom. After the school year is over, they will have a lot of free time on their hands. Wise churches and ministries want to respond to this need. Therefore, they organise day camps for the children during the summer.

I am very proud of my church which has planned a brave thing to do – an all-summer children's Day Camp. There, children will be able to learn more about God, enjoy crafts and games, learn English and spend time with other children who speak the same language. We are planning for an entire summer of work with the Ukrainian refugees because not much will change over the next three months.

Battle will lead to more refugees

One thing is sure. As the heavy and lethal weapons promised to Ukraine by the West are slowly arriving in the country, and as the Ukrainian army is getting trained in using them, we should be expecting Ukraine to strike back at Russia in late June.

That means the situation will only get hotter in the occupied territories in July and August. I have a feeling it will even cause another influx of refugees to the West of Ukraine and probably to the EU. We can expect more people from Eastern and Southern Ukraine to lose their homes.

One of the issues that Ukrainians will be struggling with in the nearest future is the increase of disabled people in society. Soldiers will be returning home with limbs missing, PTSD, and mental and psychological traumas. Many of these soldiers are now wishing they were killed in the battle because it would have been better than having to live without legs or arms.

There will be a severe need for suicide-prevention workers. Christian counselling will be one of the most critical ministries. A lot of Ukrainian Christians will need training in this field. The church must think in advance and prepare itself for the challenge and the significant need for the gospel.

God uses crises to advance His Kingdom, and He makes no mistakes. We might be scared, frustrated, angry, lost and confused. Still, if God is intelligent enough to create the Universe and all the living creatures, He is strong enough to preserve and keep them. And this is the most beautiful hope amid the most dreadful situation.



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