‘You can see the stamp of struggle and grief on every face’ (Ukrainian woman)
Innovista’s Ira Sluchak summed up the everyday experience for Ukrainians as being one of ‘conflict, mess and tiredness’. They are all faced not only with the ‘outer’ war that is raging on the front lines, which they can do little about, but also lots of their own personal ‘inner’ battles, caused by the ongoing destruction and disruption. Like a muddy puddle, everything is constantly being stirred up.
Candles for the lost
Even in locations far from the front line, Ukrainians are regularly reminded about the cost of war. The loss of life is seen by the candles outside of graveyards or the new gravestones draped with flags (showing they were soldiers – see image above). Air-raid sirens can go off at any time which disrupts sleep, and slows everything down, as plans have to be continually changed. You may have to regularly take cover in a basement or shelter, especially in areas that are attacked more often.
A displaced people
It’s hugely difficult to adapt to life away from home. Although the war has created millions of international refugees, many have remained in the country, where they have been forced to move into cramped conditions with elderly family members. Other problems include rising rental costs, because of the increased demand for housing, and tensions between different age and people groups.
The upheaval means many people are grieving the lives they have lost, as well as the deaths on the battlefield. The intensity of the emotion was summed up by one woman who broke down in tears when she finally reached her home near Kyiv, after enduring a very stressful evacuation. The hearts of many Ukrainians still lie in areas now occupied by Russians, which is why the damage to their once fertile country is so painful, especially as it will take generations to repair the destruction caused by the shelling and minefields. Ira compares it to feeling like part of your body has been cut off.
Fear and pressure
The disruption to family life has also been especially hard for many Ukrainians. Lots of women are bringing up children on their own and are having to be strong for their families, despite fearing for their husbands’ safety. Many try to raise money for equipment for loved ones, as they hope it might help them survive. Everyone feels the pressure of whether or not they are personally doing enough to help with the war effort, and whether or not husbands or sons are serving in the army.
A bike with small wheels
All Ukrainians are experiencing difficulties but, as there are always others who are much worse off, compassion and sympathy can be in short supply. People try not to complain, but the war is taking its toll. Many Ukrainians are exhausted and drained, and are reliant on sedatives to help them cope with the stress and to sleep. Ira likens it to trying to ride a bike with small wheels, only for the wheels to keep shrinking. It becomes more and more difficult to keep going and you feel every stone and pothole, meaning that small problems become much bigger. In high stress situations, when your energy levels are low, mounds inevitably become mountains.
Faith for the future
It is a great source of encouragement for Christians to know that God can provide comfort, as well as that he is in charge and will be the ultimate judge. This does not mean, however, that all worries can easily be cast aside, as there are still many uncertainties ahead. Many Christians are focused on trying to see how God wants to use them to help those around them. Ira regularly goes on outdoor walks to green spaces, which helps both to alleviate stress and provide support for others. Her ultimate hope is that God will show his mercy to Ukraine and its people among the many life conflicts, mess and tiredness. As she explains:
‘Under stress everything looks different, but our hope is to survive until the end of the war. By “survive” I mean that we try to stay emotionally and spiritually healthy – to stay connected with God and be able to hear from Him’.
(Main image: A Ukrainian graveyard in the west of the country)
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