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Ukrainian Christians living as refugees in Sopot, Poland, celebrate their homeland's 31st Independence Day.
International
Photo by Brandon Price

‘This year has changed everything’

Ukrainian Christians, many living as refugees across Europe, celebrate their besieged country’s Independence Day.

In the northern Polish city of Sopot, a group of Ukrainian Christians joined their fellow refugees in the town square.

As the Ukrainian anthem played from a loudspeaker, a solitary blue and yellow flag was hoisted above the small crowd — many of them women and children. The attendees watched in silence, some filming with their cell phones. City leaders made brief speeches in support of their Ukrainian guests.

Ukrainians gather in Sopot, Poland, on their country's Independence Day.

Ukrainians gather in Sopot, Poland, on their country’s Independence Day.

“It was a special gesture from a group that has worked very hard to take care of their neighbors,” said Brandon Price, an American who lived with his family in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, until this February. That’s when Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, amassed tanks and artillery along its Ukrainian borders as it prepared to invade the Eastern European nation.

Now, six months after the war began, Price and his fellow believers gathered to recognize the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union. Price, director of the Ukrainian Bible Institute, lives in Sopot, where the meeting place of a Church of Christ has served as a temporary home for as many as 50 refugees.

Among them are members of a Church of Christ in Mariupol, where he once served as a missionary. For 51 days, as many as 33 members took shelter in the church’s meeting place, just a few miles from the Azovstal steel plant where the three-month siege ended on May 20 as the city fell to the Russians.

Near Lviv, Ukraine, Alexander Rodichev takes a photo of the Christians who participated in Camp Amerikraine, an annual gathering of believers from the Eastern European nation and the U.S. This year church members from Alabama helped to organize camps for refugees in the Warsaw, Poland, area and in Lviv.

Near Lviv, Ukraine, Alexander Rodichev takes a photo of the Christians who participated in Camp Amerikraine, an annual gathering of believers from the Eastern European nation and the U.S. This year church members from Alabama helped to organize camps for refugees in the Warsaw, Poland, area and in Lviv.

Across Europe and Ukraine, Christians took part in ceremonies marking the somber Independence Day.

In Sopot, a Polish town on the Baltic Sea, the flag of Poland, left, flies next to the city's flag, which resembles the flag of Ukraine.“As we were walking down to the event with some of our friends, I overheard someone comment that they never really celebrated Independence Day before this year,” Price said, “and how it never really meant too much to them before.

“How much this year has changed everything.”

Following are links to stories in The Christian Chronicle’s ongoing coverage of the conflict in Ukraine and its impact on people of faith.

Members of the Church of Christ in the Kirovsky district of Donetsk

Members of the Church of Christ in the Kirovsky district of Donetsk, Ukraine, worship in 2003.

Why Ukraine matters to Churches of Christ

The Eastern European nation, now under siege by its Russian neighbors, has been fertile soil for the fellowship. As one young Ukrainian put it, ‘Christianity is the greatest treasure we have.’

Dima Grischuk, left, and fellow drivers with the Let's Love ministry prepare for a journey to eastern Ukraine to distribute aid and to ferry back the displaced.

Dima Grischuk, left, and fellow drivers with the Let’s Love ministry prepare for a journey to eastern Ukraine to distribute aid and to ferry back the displaced.

A band of brothers drives Ukraine

Christians who escaped the horrors of war journey back to the front lines to aid the hurting and share Jesus (reported from Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine).

In Chernivtsi, Adi Voicu of Romania and Dennis Zolotaryov of Ukraine load Ukrainian- and Russian-language Bibles from Eastern European Mission for transport to Romania. The Bibles will be given to Ukrainian refugees.

In Chernivtsi, Adi Voicu of Romania and Dennis Zolotaryov of Ukraine load Ukrainian- and Russian-language Bibles from Eastern European Mission for transport to Romania. The Bibles will be given to Ukrainian refugees.

Weary travelers find rest, refuge

A border town church in Ukraine becomes a hub of relocation and relief (reported from Chernivtsi, Ukraine).

Multiple modes of transport can be seen at Ukraine’s border with Romania.

Multiple modes of transport can be seen at Ukraine’s border with Romania.

In Europe, border crossings and blessings abound.

Erik Tryggestad reflects on The Christian Chronicle’s trip across the Romanian border into war-torn Ukraine (reported from Siret, Romania).

Yulian Parfenenko, 6, helps his mother, Alyona, with grocery shopping at the free resource center run by the Cluj-Napoca Church of Christ in Romania. The Parfenenko family fled Odessa, Ukraine, at the beginning of March.

Yulian Parfenenko, 6, helps his mother, Alyona, with grocery shopping at the free resource center run by the Cluj-Napoca Church of Christ in Romania. The Parfenenko family fled Odessa, Ukraine, at the beginning of March.

Serving a church in exile

Across the border from war-torn Ukraine, a Romanian congregation becomes family for traumatized souls (reported from Cluj-Napoca, Romania).

As they get ready to watch a movie in the hotel, Ukrainian children make shadow puppets on a projected computer screen that reads “Pray for Ukraine!”

As they get ready to watch a movie in the hotel, Ukrainian children make shadow puppets on a projected computer screen that reads “Pray for Ukraine!”

On a long, uncertain journey, a hotel of hope

Polish and American Christians provide a place for Ukrainians to ponder a difficult question: ‘What next?’ (reported from Pabianice, Poland).

The Kościoł Chrystusowy w Warszawie (Warsaw Church of Christ) meets in a rented facility in the Polish capital. Most of its members are refugees from Ukraine.

‘This is our Exodus’

In Poland’s capital, Ukrainian refugees are ‘in each other’s faces, at each other’s throats’ — and are redefining what it means to be a church (reported from Warsaw, Poland).

Only a few images from the church members’ seven-week ordeal remain, including this picture of one of the countless times they took refuge in their building’s hallway. As an evacuation corridor opened, most of the members deleted photos and videos of the siege from their phones, fearing that Russian soldiers would confiscate them.

Only a few images from the church members’ seven-week ordeal remain, including this picture of one of the countless times they took refuge in their building’s hallway. As an evacuation corridor opened, most of the members deleted photos and videos of the siege from their phones, fearing that Russian soldiers would confiscate them.

‘We would sing louder than the shelling’

Members of the Mariupol Church of Christ recall the 51 days they spent in ‘the valley of the shadow of death,’ huddled in their church building as Russian forces obliterated the eastern Ukrainian city (reported from Sopot, Poland).

Sasha Chekalenko takes notes during Sunday worship with the Sopot Church of Christ in Poland.

Sasha Chekalenko takes notes during Sunday worship with the Sopot Church of Christ in Poland.

A psalm of ‘our dwelling place’

After surviving the siege of Mariupol, Ukrainian Christian shares a Psalm with a congregation of fellow refugees and their Polish hosts (reported from Sopot, Poland).

Viktoria Oshurko works as a translator in a Košice relief center. In the early days of the war, 2,000 Ukrainians per day came through the center. A native of western Ukraine, Oshuko came to Slovakia to study public administration at a university. “Mentally, it’s hard,” she said of the weight of the war.

Viktoria Oshurko works as a translator in a Košice relief center. In the early days of the war, 2,000 Ukrainians per day came through the center. A native of western Ukraine, Oshuko came to Slovakia to study public administration at a university. “Mentally, it’s hard,” she said of the weight of the war.

Where to next?

It’s a difficult question for Ukrainian Christians as they find temporary shelter, and challenges, in the overstressed countries of Europe and the U.S. (reported from Košice, Slovakia).

 

Christians in U.S. check off ‘bucket lists’ for Ukraine

Churches across the nation gather supplies to help refugees in war-torn Eastern Europe — and get a $10,000 boost from TV host Kelly Clarkson.

A long line of Ukrainians walks toward the Polish border checkpoint, fleeing the war in their homeland.

A long line of Ukrainians walks toward the Polish border checkpoint, fleeing the war in their homeland.

Ukraine crisis: How to help

A list of ministries associated with Churches of Christ and congregations collecting funds for Ukraine relief.

Filed under: Church of Christ Poland International Poland refugee ministry Top Stories Ukraine conflict Ukraine Russia Ukraine war Ukrainian refugees

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