After 17 hours on the road by train from Kyiv to Mariupol and another hour by car through the mined fields, CBN-Emmanuel’s team arrived to our today’s final destination – the village of Orlovske in war-affected eastern Ukraine.

There is no sign on the road indicating the location. A couple of very old and shaggy houses made it clear that people are still living in the village. To be specific, there are about 80 houses in Orlovsky inhabited by elderly people. Younger population had left a long time ago – in a remote village like this, there are no life perspectives for the young.

As we walked through the village, it was hard to believe that we are in the 21st century. There are no schools, kindergartens, hospitals or any places of entertainment in the village. The only grocery store runs from 15.00 to 17.00. The locals have to go to the nearby town of Mariopol every month in order to buy some basic food or household detergents. Often, villagers can’t afford even these simple trips – majority of them don’t own a car and the ones who are lucky enough to have a car cannot afford to buy gasoline. On the other hand, when they buy a stock of goods it’s difficult to carry them home when travelling by bus.

One of the abandoned houses is now being used as the local church. Villagers from Orlovske as well as people coming from a neighboring village gather here for Sunday services. This local church is the only place where people can get together, hear the Word of God, talk and receive humanitarian assistance. The locals have to running water or gas supplies in their homes. The water is being brought from other towns and they normally cook food using firewood stoves. Fortunately, there is electricity supply in the village and a wi-fi zone in the church – those are the only two amenities available in the village.

However, there is a greater evil that separates the village from a normal human life. The worst reality of the locals is that their village is situated in the so called “red zone” where they live under fire every single day.

Every night, we fall asleep to the sounds of guns and explosions of grenades. This is a very unpleasant feeling“- shares one of the villagers, Valentyna Karyda.

The village of Orlovske suffers from war, cold winds, anxiety and poverty. However, the locals are still the only flame of the village – they are  hospitable, bright, friendly and grateful. The Lord does not forget even the most distant places and sends the most caring ones to help those in need.

“Pope for Ukraine” Initiative stretched a helping hand to the most vulnerable families by providing them with untargeted financial assistance of 2470 hryvnias (around $90) – an amount that will be a substantial support for the locals. CBN-Emmanuel as an executive partner of this initiative helped find the ones to needed this assistance the most. CBN-Emmanuel’s team came to Orlovske to meet with those who received the assistance and see how this people live, what they need and what they hope for.

76-year-old Anna Tumakova was the first beneficiary who welcomed our team in her home. The woman breeds 25 chickens and takes care of her garden. She says that she’s always loved farming.

As we talk, she constantly mentions her husband who had died three months ago and her eyes get filled with tears. Mrs Anna has so many memories of her 56 years of life with Volodya – the life filled with kindness, happiness and joy. Every time she mentions his name, her voice trembles.  She shared that she moved to Orlovsky when she was 20 years old. She worked on a farm where she met her future husband. Sadly enough, they couldn’t have kids but they weren’t too upset about it because they had each other. Anna shares that she injured her leg not long ago and it was her husband who took care of her… and now he is gone…

Anna Denisovna shows pictures of their once great family and tells us how she has to live now all by herself in a very old crumbling house. It is obvious that her house needs repairs – the ceiling and walls are in a very bad condition due to war.Every night you can hear the sounds of fire and my old house crumbles. I hope that I’ll be able to save some money and when spring comes I will be able to repair it a little. I will use the money that you have provided to do the repairs “, says Anna Denysivna.

Overwhelming majority of villagers who received the assistance are planning to buy firewood. Another family, Valentyna and Pavlo Karida, say they that they would rather experience shortage of food than suffer from cold during winter. They have already purchased 3 cubic meters of firewood and this, according to very optimistic forecasts by Mr. Pavel, should be enough for the winter. However, Mrs. Valentina corrects her husband and says that the firewood will be gone by January. The couple has saved some firewood from the previous winter so they hope that they will have enough to cope with this winter as well.

Sergiy, one of the villagers who drove our team to Orlovske showed us his own house. We were able to meet his sick and almost blind mother who suffers from diabetes.  There is a Bible on her bedside table, but Olena Viktorivna is not able to read it. Sergiy turns on an audiobook for her. It is comparatively warm in the room – the man had already managed to buy firewood. When it’s time to say good-bye, Olena Viktorivna started crying. “She cries often, but she will soon calm down” Sergiy says. However, it’s not easy to calm down for a person who feels hopeless, desperate and impotent.

The same can be said about the 16-year-old Ruslan who suffers from an inborn disability. His mother Alla shares that she will spend the money to buy medicines and diapers. The family lives off the boy’s disability allowance. Alla’s husband also goes to the town of Mariupol to make some additional money. Alla’s mother Anna lives with them too. She says that she is going to buy a stock of potatoes to have something to eat during the winter.

All the people whom we met in Orlovske are in need of many basic things. However, what they need the most is warmth, both physical and spiritual. A chance to see these people and hear their stories is a reminder to all of us that we need to appreciate everything that we have much more. It is especially true when you realize that there are people who have to fall asleep with the sounds of war every single night. A cozy home filled with loved ones, some food to eat, warm clothes and peaceful nights – this is more than enough to be appreciated!

Journalist CBN-Emmanuel, Krisrina Korinets

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