Just hours after the Russian attack on Ukraine began February 24, 2022, Adventist church members, volunteers, and humanitarian agencies mobilized to assist those in need. Across Eastern Europe, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and local Adventist congregations and fields are stepping up to care for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine and the thousands who are crossing the borders into Poland and Romania every day.
On March 2, ADRA Europe reported that even as they live through the crisis themselves, the team at ADRA Ukraine continues to provide humanitarian aid along with partners and support from outside the country. “They are working with the local Adventist church to provide accommodations, food, water, and hygiene to IDPs within Ukraine,” the report said. “Another area of focus is providing psychosocial support to IDPs and to refugees who have fled the country.”
The Role of ADRA Country Offices
Near the Romania-Ukraine border, an ADRA Romania team moved quickly to one of the crossings into Ukraine, where they were joined by workers from ADRA Ukraine. The two teams, traveling in ADRA vans loaded with aid for IDPs, successfully drove across the border. As of March 5, they had completed two trips inside Ukraine. Both teams are simultaneously coordinating support to welcome centers on the Romanian side of the border and preparing accommodations for those arriving.
“I talked to a volunteer who prepared his house to welcome refugees,” an ADRA leader reported in a video message on March 5. “He told me that around 100 refugees have already stopped by to sleep one night at his house. As soon as those occupying beds leave, more come to replace them,” the volunteer said.
In Slovakia, an ADRA team is welcoming refugees at the border with Ukraine in Vyšné, where the agency has set up its main humanitarian tent. In cooperation with People in Needs volunteers, ADRA volunteers are providing shelter, warmth, refreshments, a children’s program, and transport to cities, the agency reported. An ADRA bus also serves as an ambulance.
ADRA Poland Moves to Assist
The ADRA Poland team is also at the Ukrainian border, providing support to those fleeing the conflict. Along with welcome packages, the team is also providing psychosocial support and legal assistance, leaders reported.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees keep moving west from Ukraine into Poland. In some places, the wait time to enter Poland has been 60 hours, ADRA reported on March 1. ADRA has boots on the ground to assist those in need and help refugees decide where to go after they cross the border. “Among the refugees are mostly women and children, because men between the ages of 18 and 60 are banned from leaving Ukraine because of the possibility of joining the army,” ADRA reported. “ADRA Poland is providing packages with toiletries and vacuum-packed snacks,” the report said. Packages are also distributed at railway stations.
At the border crossing near Dołhobyczów, the weather was cold and wet the first few days of March. ADRA keeps 24/7 watch. During night shifts, ADRA activities include distributing fuel to those fleeing war and providing information to people who have just crossed the border. “We are also distributing food, medicines, thermal blankets, extensions, and other necessary equipment,” ADRA reported. “ADRA’s actions are aimed at providing essential aid, transporting people crossing the border to major municipal centers, providing information and guidance, and distributing first-need items and other relief activities.”
Open Arms and a Hug
On March 4, ADRA Poland reported that the night before had been “another night filled with fear, uncertainty, and tears.” They explained that at the border with Ukraine, the ADRA Poland team welcomed people fleeing all night. “It was cold and sad, but ADRA teams are with people … seeking safety in surrounding countries.”
That day, Michael Peach from Australia joined the ADRA team in Poland. Peach shared a story that touched his heart in a special way. “As we stood shivering at the border, an old lady walked up to my colleague, gave her a big hug, burst into tears, and said, ‘Thank you!’ We hadn’t done anything, but we were the first friendly faces she’d seen in a while,” Peach said. “The people of Poland have literally opened their homes to their neighbors fleeing Ukraine,” Peach added. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Support from the Adventist Community
On March 5, ADRA International leaders reported that since the beginning of the conflict, local Adventist churches in Ukraine and surrounding countries immediately opened their doors to care for IDPs and for those fleeing the country. IDPs are people who move within their country, and they are usually some of the most vulnerable individuals, ADRA reported. “Families are living in shelters without electricity or heat. They are cold. They are hungry. They are scared.” The Seventh-day Adventist Church is responding to this need by using its infrastructure — from churches to conference camps to youth centers to schools — to serve anyone in need.
The Adventist community, however, didn’t stop there, ADRA reported. In Romania, “Adventist [local] churches sent a request to their members, asking if any would be willing to open their homes. Within the first couple hours, about 200 members had responded that they would be willing to open their homes to house people in need,” ADRA leaders said. “Our work is possible through our supporters and partners, and one of our greatest partners is our global church network … We are stronger together in everything we do.”
With reports from ADRA International, ADRA Europe, ADRA Poland, and Hope Channel, Inc.