Tomorrow, unbelievably, marks one year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It feels like only yesterday, but also feels like a lifetime has passed since we lived in a land of peace. There has been war in Ukraine since 2014 when Russia invaded the Eastern borders and stole Crimea, but our town remained at peace. We didn’t feel the war in our everyday life. Here on our little Homestead we lived in peace, without fear. Oh, what beautiful, peaceful lives we led. We took so much for granted and didn’t even realize it. Now we are forever changed. This year showed us a lot about ourselves, about our work, about our team and our boys, and about our world. We will never be the same.
Our newsletter should go out tomorrow and I know the anniversary of the war deserves attention, but I just know tomorrow I won’t be in a mindset to deeply reflect. It’s just too painful. I figured I’d get as many of the tears out today as possible. So bear with me as I rip off the barely healing scab on my heart and reflect on this past year.
I sometimes wonder what I did last year on February 23rd, the last day of peace. How did I fill my time? What was on my mind? What plans did I have for the next few days, the next few months? I can’t even remember. When we woke up on February 24th to bombs dropping and our house shaking our old life and plans flew out the window. We had entered a new reality where only the war existed and the rest of the world was as far away as Jupiter. Anytime I think about those first few weeks of war my stomach hurts and tears flow. All the feelings come rushing back: shock, fear, outrage, confusion…How do we live in a time of war? How do we parent our children through this? How do we lead our team through this? How do we keep our children and our boys safe? What is the right thing to do? Do we stay or do we go? If we go we will be physically safe, but how can we leave the men on our team and our boys at Romaniv? If we stay we could die. What if our children die because we stayed- when we could have left? The internal dialogue and conflict were unrelenting. There is no guidebook to living through a war. You just live, one day at a time.
Then there is the time we spent as refugees in Germany. That was a whole lifetime in itself that contains its own pain. To be honest, I still can’t really talk with you about that time. For me, personally, it was the most agonizing, most difficult time of my life. I have no idea which Kim the people in Germany saw…but it wasn’t me. I was not myself and the whole time is like a blur. I know someday I’ll be able to share with you more about that time, but I honestly am just not ready. I’m thankful our bodies were safe and I’m thankful for the people that helped us. I truly am. I have a handful of really beautiful moments there that I will carry with me always. But in general, it was just super rough, for me personally. I know it’s visible in the Youtube videos from that time. I don’t plan to ever go back and watch those. I’m aware I look like death. 😂 Care for the refugee, Friends. They are carrying such deep pain.
Since we returned home to Ukraine in July we have all learned to live in the new normal. We have adapted to life in a country at war and I’m consistently amazed at the resilience of the human spirit. We really are amazingly adaptable creatures. Sometimes I’m even a little concerned at how normal certain things have become that should never be normal for anyone. But, God has given us, our team, and our boys the grace to keep moving forward, despite the war raging around us. We are so thankful for his protection, his grace, and his love for us and this work that he has created.
I have heard people refer to this year as “The Year Russia stole from Ukraine” and boy, they have definitely stolen a lot. They’ve stolen thousands of innocent lives. The death toll isn’t even countable yet in places like Mariupol where Russian troops still hold the city. I’ve read estimates of at least 20,000 civilian deaths in that city alone. One source even estimates as many as 87,000 deaths in the city that a year ago today had a thriving population of over 425,000. We may never know how many lives were lost in that once beautiful city on the sea. The Russians have stolen the childhood of an entire generation. Ukrainian children have seen unimaginable horrors this past year. They spend sometimes hours a day in their schools’ bomb shelters and know waaaaaay too much about different weapons and their capabilities. They know true fear like I never knew as a child- or even as an adult! My heart hurts, thinking of the ways my children have had to grow up this past year. It shouldn’t be this way. Russia has stolen some of the best and brightest from Ukraine. Millions have fled the country and the longer they are away in Europe or the US the less likely it is that they will ever return. Some of the brightest of us have fled, the bravest of us have died, and the rest are left to pick up the pieces. It is a heartbreaking reality.
But- despite all that has been stolen and despite the circumstances that thwart at every turn, we absolutely refuse to let Russia steal our hope. We will not be led by fear. We will not back down. We will not hold back. God is our portion, our refuge, our strength, our hope. The dreams he put in our hearts he will see to fruition- he is even doing that now! Right now, as I am writing this post, Jed is in Romaniv at a committee meeting where they will grant him legal guardianship of Yaroslav and Vova. Today our boys will be ours forever. God is still moving, still making a way and as long as he goes, we will follow.
This year our faith has been tested and defined. Where do we find our hope? Who do we turn to when we are afraid? Do we believe God’s promises to us and our boys? Where does our strength come from? Is our joy reliant on our circumstances? I have failed a million times this past year. I have put my hope in people. I have not chosen joy when things looked bleak. I have relied on my own strength. I have doubted God and his faithfulness. But despite all that, he keeps pulling me back. He keeps showing his love and faithfulness to us, our team, and our boys. He provides all that we need at every turn. He is always there, waiting, loving us first. No matter what may come tomorrow, we will hope in him.
Thank you for loving us and for remembering Ukraine. Victory will come, I’m certain of it, but until that moment we will continue to put one foot in front of the other, saying YES to the next thing God asks of us. Thank you for joining us along the journey. It’s not over yet.