For the first time in two years, an event is taking place on the world stage that has replaced the pandemic headlines. A world power has taken military action against another nation with the intention of conquering it—and everyone is watching to see what the rest of the world will do about it. The vast numbers of bombs, wounded and perished grows with each attack, but nothing makes numbers and cold facts come alive more than real-life stories of those living through this atrocity.
You can get some historical background to the conflict in the accompanying article of this issue. However, since several of our Maoz staff in Israel have friends and family in the affected areas, we wanted to share just a few of their first-hand stories with you.
If you’ve been following the work of Maoz for more than two years, you have likely enjoyed seeing some of the beautiful photos we’ve captured of the people Maoz has been able to serve in various projects. Those photos were taken by Yoni who immigrated to Israel from Ukraine. Yoni has since moved on to a different field of work, but he remains in close contact with members of our team.
Yoni’s older sister, Alona, was the first one to make the move to Israel years before Yoni was old enough to take the steps himself. Occasionally, Alona would go back to visit friends and family in Ukraine and on one of those visits she met a young man named Roma. Roma and Alona eventually married and began building a family in Israel. The Jewish state, however, is no easy place to raise a young family—especially as believers.
When Alona’s parents heard of their struggles, they offered them the opportunity to return to Ukraine, live in their home and be surrounded with a believing community. They had an online business they could run from anywhere—and their income would go further in the Ukrainian economy. And so, in 2019, with the hope that they would be able to support their family and raise their kids in a quality believing school, they decided to move their family back to Ukraine.
Even through the difficulty of the pandemic, their business flourished. They found much strength in the believing community around them, opened a small store to sell their merchandise and had enough left over to send their kids to afterschool activities. That beautiful life came to an abrupt halt the day they woke up to what sounded like distant thunder.
“No one really believed Russia would invade, but on February 24th when at 5:00 a.m. we heard explosions in the distance, we knew exactly what it meant. Russia had invaded.” Alona shared. “The kids were scared but the booms were a good distance away, so we turned on the news to try to get as many details about the situation as possible in terms of where the dangerous areas were. It took only a few hours for us to realize that we needed to leave—and that we would likely be gone for at least a year. It took another couple of hours for us to pack up what we could fit into a few suitcases knowing we may never see this home again.”
“All in all, we spent a week on the road with our four children crossing into Moldova and eventually Romania where we purchased tickets to Israel. By the time we arrived in Tel Aviv, Maoz’ I Stand with Israel already had funds ready for us to purchase food and clothing for the children and even managed to get us good mattresses from The Joseph Project to put on the floor of Yoni’s one room apartment where we’ve been staying. Now we begin the process of finding a more permanent place to live, then registering the kids into new schools and finding work. It is difficult not knowing how long we will be here—one year? Three years? Do we just stay? But for now, it’s just one day at a time.”
Upon arriving in Israel Roma tried to reach his family back in Ukraine. For three days he heard nothing from his sister, Tatyana, her husband, Misha (not their real names), and their two kids. As it turns out, the family had been hiding in their basement with no water, electricity, or cell reception. Realizing they needed to find a way to flee their village, Misha went out to search for help. He needed someone with a vehicle who could give them a ride out of the danger zone. Night fell and Misha didn’t return. Three days later Tatyana was notified that someone who knew him had found him. She never got to see his body, but they brought his clothes for her to identify.