I was awakened by a 5 AM call from Kiev. An 89-year old woman, whom I met in Crimea, when it was still Ukrainian, called with a calm hopeless voice. I haven’t talked to her for several years. It must be something serious I thought, still trying to turn on my sleeping brain…
Everyone has left.
“A war started,” she said. “I am at home in my condo-building. Everyone has left. They forgot me here. They told me they would pick me up in an hour… five-six hours ago, and nobody came.”
“Do you have food and water?” I asked.
“Yes, for a day or so.”
“Where would they be taking you?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
Something doesn’t match, I thought. My friend was a biologist and a poet, both well educated and literate. Here she sounded numb. Why doesn’t she know? I kept silence for a minute while my brain finally got into gear. “What can I do for you if anything?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Not a surprise. She was in Ukraine where an invading army was rolling her direction. I was in Ohio.
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Larisa replied.
So, what could I do? Phone connections are available, and I have friends around the world. I called one in Crimea and told her what happened. She, in turn, called someone in Kiev and gave Larisa’s address.
Good people are everywhere. The same day, Larisa was evacuated. They say you can connect almost any two people in the world in six steps. For Larisa, rescue had taken three.
Over the next few weeks, millions of others joined her. Many have fled the country. Many more are trapped in cities under siege. in a country with 43 million people, one in four has been displaced in just over three weeks.
A week later, about 2 am (I am getting used to overnight calls), I received another call. Larisa happily reported that she was in a shelter in Western Ukraine near Hungary, and she was safe. She assured me that she doesn’t want to go to Poland, Israel, or any other country. She wants to return home, back home to Kiev. “My walls are waiting for me! I have at home my books and my friends,” she said. “I have my streets, and my Buckeye trees. I will return when all this is over!” She told me she wants to celebrate her 90th birthday in Kiev next July. This was the friend I remembered.
I will return when all this is over!
Her optimism gave me hope – hope that the evil will back up, and people will rejuvenate and rebuild the destruction. I will also visit there again, at least once, and walk my favorite streets.
Saturday March 19, I was at a fundraising at the Grace Evangelical Church in Columbus. I talked to the minister Viktor Moskalyuk. He shared how carefully they were spreading the funds received from people here. The whole process is being managed by people through Ukrainian churches. I learned the finances are going three ways.
- To cover the cost for shipping humanitarian aid
- To pay for the fuel for volunteers to deliver this Aid, and
- Direct financial support of those places that can’t be reached by volunteers.
Viktor was kind enough to provide this video.
Over thirty years ago, when the Soviet Union was crumbling, my family and I were among a wave of refugees. We survived with a lot of help from others. This time, the crisis is being driven by a war and things are much, much worse. This time, it’s my turn to help and I need you to help me help them.
Several years ago, I wrote and published my book Love Is Never Past Tense. The book is largely biographical and has two features that make it appropriate for this situation. One large part is set in Odessa Ukraine. It gives you a historic view of the city and its culture as seen through the eyes of the protagonists. Another part, my personal experience as a refugee, can be found in the chapter titled Exodus. I have made this book the center of a fundraising campaign..
You can buy copies of Love Is Never Past Tense at Amazon and 100% of my royalties will go to the Grace Evangelical Church’s Ukrainian campaign. This applies to any format of the book but not to (generally used) copies sold by third parties that do nothing for my bank account. If you want to maximize the benefit to the cause, please consider the Kindle edition which has been priced to maximize the royalty rate. The Love Is Never Past Tense eBook trilogy containing the story is available for the same price. If you also want to make a straight donation yourself, go here.