Christian charity worker will not leave Ukraine despite war threat


Eastern Europe

Arco Vuik, RD

Stefanie de Wildt. Photo RD

For Dutch Stefanie de Wildt (30), a fieldworker for the Kimon Foundation in Ukraine, the threat of war has left its mark on daily reality. Sometimes she is startled by the sound of a fighter jet to which she had previously paid no attention. "Then it shoots through your head: it has started!"

De Wildt notices the threat of war in the street scene: army cars and soldiers walking around are more prominent than before. "Russia's troops are 300 kilometres away, and they could attack at any moment."

The charity worker has been living in Ukraine for over four years. First in the West, and now she has been working for two years in a family house in the village of Pomichna, 1,000 kilometres further East, half-way between Kyiv and Odessa. The family home is a Ukrainian family that takes care of foster children. "My goal and vocation are to establish a home here for disabled children. They need love and attention but above all the gospel," says De Wildt.

The threat of invasion by the Russians has stopped De Wildt's future plans. Usually, the construction of the new home for the disabled, named Bethesda, could start now, but that does not seem wise in the current circumstances. Therefore, De Wildt is looking at other places, more in the west of Ukraine, to realise the home there.

Here and there, Western organisations are repatriating people from Ukraine, as diplomatic services do. Especially non-essential people –as families– are leaving.


Last week there were already rumours about problems with the availability of internet and electricity shortly due to the threat from Russia. I have informed my relatives in the Netherlands that this could have consequences for my reachability."

The fieldworker notices a lot of fear and unrest among the Ukrainian villagers. "The population is stuck here; they can't just move if they have no friends or family elsewhere." Despite the threat, people still go to school and work. "But a possible war is the talk of the day among Ukrainians." De Wildt has heard from other field workers in western Ukraine that the population is hoarding.


De Wildt notes that there is more peace and trust among the Christians around the family house. "We do talk about the threatening situation, but we put our trust in God; the circumstances are in His hands."

De Wildt is having serious discussions with the other family home residents about a possible sudden departure. "If we have to leave with the ten children of the family home, we won't have the time to pack all our belongings. Then we will only take what is necessary." The family home residents know a place in western Ukraine where they can stay temporarily in an emergency.

De Wildt is not busy packing suitcases. She did receive the advice to prepare jerrycans with petrol because the fuel supply might be in danger. She is also trying to get as much money out of the banks because they may be closing soon.


Richard Pannekoek, director of Kimon Foundation, says that he is in daily contact with the fieldworkers in Ukraine. He is particularly concerned about De Wildt because she lives in the East part of the country. Last week, Pannekoek heard about the increased travel advice from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Ukraine. All provinces of Ukraine are now coloured orange or red. That means no or only necessary travel.

"That's when I decided to advise Stefanie to find a safe haven urgently. My job is to keep a close eye on the situation. On the other hand, it is important to be faithful to your work and fulfil that vocation. It creates tension between reality and vocation. But ultimately, I am not the manager of her life", says Pannekoek.

Leaving Ukraine altogether is not an option for De Wildt. "The Lord has given me my calling in this place. Why should I leave this country when war breaks out? Especially then, it is important to stay here and help the people.

This article was published previously in the Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad on January 28th, 2022



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