A Ukrainian Christian who left his country ahead of Russia’s invasion shared his heartache and grief over his compatriots suffering in the war-ravaged nation and wonders what will be left of their cities and villages when the fighting ceases.
Ruslan Maliuta, a Ukrainian Evangelical from Kyiv, who has spent the last four weeks in Switzerland, spoke to The Christian Post about the situation on the ground back home and urged Christians worldwide to pray for Ukraine to emerge from this conflict stronger than ever.
“We came to Western Europe about four weeks ago,” said Maliuta, referring to his wife and their five children who were forced to flee their home to escape the impending invasion of Russian troops.
As repeated warnings about Russian President Vladimir Putin planning attacks on Ukraine gained the attention of global powers, Maliuta and his wife determined that circumstances were looking dire and “it might be a good idea to just go temporarily.”
Since their arrival in Switzerland, they’ve been praying that tensions will “de-escalate.” But now, the family is facing the gut-wrenching reality that they don’t know when, or even if, they’ll ever be able to return home.
“War happened, so everything changed,” he lamented.
Although Maliuta and his wife and children made it out of Ukraine before the fighting intensified last week, both his parents and in-laws remain in a western suburb of Kyiv, having elected not to evacuate.
“They did not leave, and while those specific suburbs are still relatively safe, as much as something can be safe in Ukraine, ... the bombings and the fightings are closing in,” he said.
“Personally, our biggest concern is praying for [the] safety of our parents who are still in the area, especially with the fighting around Kyiv intensifying.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s orders banning men between the ages of 18 to 60 from leaving the country with their families so they can stay and fight for their homeland has also meant that many families are now separated or denied access to leave.
One such family is an acquaintance of Maliuta’s children. Despite having a child with special needs, the family was banned from leaving together and “turned away” at the border as they tried to flee the country. Such circumstances are “devastating,” he said.
The Ukrainian government ultimately amended the order to exclude “men who have three or more children, who have adopted children, [or] who have special needs children.” After the order was changed, the family was finally “able to cross the border,” Maliuta explained.
Even before tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated to a boiling point following the invasion last week, Maliuta characterized their lives as “disruptive.”
“Whenever there is [a] combat situation or it’s close to that,” Maliuta said his church chooses not to gather in-person “because it’s dangerous.” Though his church didn’t have “regular Sunday services,” they continued to meet online and hold services via Zoom. “Kind of like during COVID times,” he added.
Even if fighting between Ukraine and Russia soon ends, Maliuta implored Christians worldwide to see the country’s restoration as “a long-term” project.
“We are looking at a very long time of restoring infrastructure,” he said, emphasizing that it will take a long time for people affected by the war to “recover from physical consequences and to recover from psychological consequences.”
Every Ukrainian who has tried to flee the country since war broke out is “probably traumatized, not only by the experience of war but also by this whole journey,” he continued. In the first days following the invasion, “it was not unusual to spend 50, 60 hours or more waiting to get through the Border Patrol.”
As an Evangelical, Maliuta shared his gratitude for the impact of Christian ministries assisting Ukrainians forced to flee their homes and leave their cherished belongings behind.
“There are ministries in Ukraine that help people to get across the border and then find places for them temporarily, and then more long-term as they move into Poland or Romania or Moldova and then further West.”
“There are many elements to helping people who are waiting in line at the border — providing them with hot meals, essentials, medicine and welcoming them after they cross the border. Anything that relates to refugees, I think there are growing efforts to provide psychological and spiritual support. ... I would say that every person ... has been traumatized and is suffering and is in some kind of distress.”
Maliuta implored Christians around the world to pray for “a miracle in Ukraine,” an “intentional prayer for God to help Ukraine go through this immense challenge in a way that will allow it to emerge even stronger and even more free.” He praised the “incredible outpouring of prayer for Ukraine” he has already seen so far.
“If you’re in Ukraine, what’s going on right now is devastating. It’s really hard to see your country turn to pieces, people dying and people leaving everything behind. So in the midst of such pain, suffering, horrible things, it’s very encouraging and uplifting to see [people praying]. … It seems to be impacting people in very significant ways regardless of where they live.”
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com