Seventh-day Adventist educational institutions in Ukraine are doubling as places of refuge after the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.
In a recent message to Seventh-day Adventist leaders, Ukrainian Union Conference education director Kostiantyn S. Kampen described the evolving situation of Adventist schools in Ukraine.
Kampen wrote that many Ukrainians were awakened by rocket attacks and explosions early on February 24. Those explosions marked the beginning of Russia’s attack on the country.
That day, Kampen reported, only one of the 24 Adventist schools in Ukraine held in-person classes. The rest told students and faculty not to attend, as fighting took place on the city streets and in the city suburbs where at least five Adventist schools are located.
Adventist teachers, however, made great efforts to keep delivering instruction to their students. “Despite the Ukrainian Ministry of Education’s decree declaring a two-week break, some Adventist schools continue to teach through Zoom,” Kampen wrote. And he explained, “Online learning helps children, at least to some extent, to fill their lives with something other than news about the war.”
Nevertheless, Kampen reported that when kids attending Adventist schools turned to online learning or went on break, the school buildings didn’t sit empty. On the contrary, they were transformed into places of refuge.
“School classrooms began to fill with people,” he wrote. “In cities affected by the fighting, school buildings are being used to shelter people from the shelling. In cities further away from the active combat zone, schools serve as shelters for displaced people from other cities.”
Kampen also reported that Sabbath [Saturday], February 26, was the first time some displaced people attended a Sabbath service. “If schools need to move desks and mattresses out of classrooms, if school principals need to organize meals for refugees instead of scheduling classes, and if chaplains need to hold worship services for adults rather than children… we are willing to do all those things to save people and fulfill our mission,” he wrote.
Ivan Ryapolov, education director for the Euro-Asia Division, commented on the current crisis, "God is our refuge. He is not abandoning us and is still leading. He will lead us through."
Adventist Support Across the Region
According to sources from the Trans-European Division (TED) of the Adventist Church, a region that includes several countries adjacent to Ukraine, Adventist leaders and members are moving quickly to support and assist the thousands of Ukrainians flooding across their eastern borders every day.
Sources from TED Communication reported that the Polish Union Conference (PUC) is opening homes and churches to accommodate people from Ukraine. “I have sent a special appeal to all churches,” Ryszard Jankowski, president of the PUC, said. “[We are] asking people to open their hearts, homes, and wallets to our friends from Ukraine.”
PUC has created a special committee to help displaced persons during this crisis. “We still have to face many challenges, but by the grace of God we will overcome them. This coming Sabbath during our services we will spend time to pray for Ukraine, and we will also pray during the week,” Jankowski said.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Hungary is also ready to receive refugees, TED Communication reported. “Local churches are open; we have a Bible Camp 80 kilometers [50 miles] from the Ukrainian border. The capacity is for at least 50 people. There is heating, kitchen, and bathrooms,” ADRA leaders reported.
The Hungarian Union Conference office will also be opened to receive refugees, church leaders said.
ADRA Europe offices started fundraising on February 25, a mere 24 hours after the invasion began. Leaders of the humanitarian arm of the Adventist Church in Europe reported that besides welcoming refugees, the agency is finding ways to work inside Ukraine despite major challenges. “Additional staff are already on the way to strengthen the capacity to deliver,” ADRA Europe reported. “There will be a large operation to support them as soon as it is possible.”
Lisa Beardsley-Hardy and Vanessa Pizzuto contributed to this report.