The armed conflict in Ukraine has been ongoing for weeks now, and the world has rallied to help millions of refugees displaced by the violence. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe is part of the worldwide Adventist response to help those in need through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).
Bulgaria, a small country bordering the Black Sea, which connects with the Ukraine, is participating in relief efforts in solidarity with the Ukrainian refugees.
During the second week of the conflict, the Bulgarian Union collected some money from colleagues at the Union office and Petya Gotseva, a humanitarian aid coordinator, purchased heavy blankets to be loaded into a van, along with food and drinks for refugees staying in tents at the border.
Interestingly, on a recent Saturday morning one of the Bulgarian national television channels broadcast directly from the Romanian-Ukrainian border, where they captured footage of a famous Bulgarian movie star riding in the Adventist Union van, sharing how pleased she was with ADRA’s activities.
But ordinary citizens are also playing a key role. The following is a brief testimony from an Adventist leader in Bulgaria that highlights the compassion Bulgarian citizens have — whether they are church members or not — toward people in need.
“On March 3, I went to the office for a Zoom meeting with the Inter-European [EUD] Communications team,” recounted Ivalina Ilieva. “I wasn’t supposed to work — it [was] a national holiday in Bulgaria — but I felt I had to do so. During the meeting, I got a phone call from Petya Gotseva … who asked me how long I would be in the office. A young lady from our local congregation wanted to stop by and bring some items for the refugees. Officially, the [campaign] was supposed to start on Sabbath [Saturday] with people collecting money and many necessary items in their churches. So, this was quite unexpected.
“Upon finishing the Zoom meeting, I got another phone call,” Ilieva went on. “A male voice told me he was in front of the Union building. I went to open the door and saw a car with a young man inside.”
With a shy smile, the man told Ilieva that he was bringing a donation for Ukrainian refugees and asked her where he could put it. And then he started unloading a carful of goods — box after box after box filled with croissants, bake rolls, biscuits, chocolates, muesli bars, water, juices, and hand sanitizers. Afterward, he said with the same shy smile, “This is all we could do in a short time!” and then he left.
“I met the donor in church and thanked her for her generosity,” Ilieva said. “I learned her side of the story! Urged by her aunt, she was talking to her boyfriend (the young man who came with the goodies), sharing that they should probably do something for the refugees. He said, ‘Sure, get ready, let’s go to the store!’ ‘You mean NOW?’ she replied. ‘What is there to wait for?’ the man asked. When they went to the retail store, she inquired how much they could spend. ‘We have 500 euros,’ he replied. The young [people] dug into their pockets and took everything they had — 100 euros, another 250 euros, and still another 150 euros.”
“They weren’t Adventists, but they trusted us,” Ilieva concluded. “They gave everything they had in their pockets. Thus, we are now praying not only for Ukrainian refugees but also for all the people in Bulgaria who want to open their hearts and give what they have for those in need, relying on the Adventist Church.”