Lilya is a kind and gentle 5-year-old girl.

She was born in war-affected eastern Ukraine and there was no electricity or water supply in the maternity hospital due to shelling on the day when she was born.

The delivery was complicated and took a long time; Liliya’s mother lost a lot of blood. Through the pain, unsanitary conditions and deafening explosions, Olena was sitting on the floor and trying to keep the life of a little treasure in her hands. It was only on the next morning when this woman, exhausted by childbirth, was honored to wash her wounds when the water supply was renewed.

Today, 5 years later, the woman is still  fighting for Lilya’s health, after all, like with any treasure, Lilya’s life is fragile.

“My younger daughter was born in 2014, right on the Independence Day of Ukraine. You may remember from the news, what a terrible war day that was in our home town of Avdiyivka. For me, the experience was unforgettable with the shelling  because my daughter was born and I had to save her life”, – 43-year-old Olena Khmeleva shares.

Lilya is looking at us with her bright eyes happy to see a package of sweet condensed milk among other food products that we have brought for the family. She is tenderly holding her favorite pet, a tiny hamster. At the same time, her eyes are full of pain.

Olena is a mother of three daughters. The older already lives with her own family, while 11-year-Anya and 5-year-old Liliya are still living with Olena in war-affected Avdiyivka.

Olena’s mother had left the town when the war started and throughout our conversation, Olena mentions several times that “she is all alone now”.

The three of us (me and my two daughters) live on an allowance of 1800UAH (around 65USD). This is our monthly family budget. I was fired from kindergarten, where I previously worked as an assistant cook. The management explained the dismissal by military actions. There is no difference for me what the reason for the dismissal was, when I was left without a job and any income. I can’t get another job because Liliya is very weak and she gets sick very often and I can’t leave her with my other 11-year-old daughter. It’s totally explainable that her health is very weak – she was born under shelling and there was no day of her life without war. 

I haven’t been paying my utility bills for a long time – I just don’t have the money. If I pay for the utilities, we will starve to death. So I spend our whole allowance ($65)  to buy basic food products and potatoes. The one good thing is that I don’t have to buy cereals, oil and sugar – they are normally included into humanitarian food bags. Unfortunately, may humanitarian organizations have closed operations in eastern Ukraine and we have not received any  help for a long time. Had it not been for CBN-Emmanuel, we would not be able to survive without the food support!

I thank God that in the midst of all of these circumstances, we were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel  when we met Oleg and Luda from the Good News Church! These are truly holy people!

Believe it or not, there were often periods when I had no money even to buy bread. And we were literally starving. When one of the missionaries Luda found out about our trouble, she bought us bread for her own money! And I must say that Luda is not a part of a charity where big money is spinning! She is a simple girl who just cares for other people! Thanks to her kindness, we have survived many times. However, her most important help was that she invited us to the church. My kids attend Christian lessons where they learn how not to lose hope.

Today Luda brought us a huge food package with expensive food from the Dutch organization “ORA”!

Some people may think that food is something small and unimportant in life, but for us this help is the only way to exist! Here in Avdiyivka, we live under constant shooting each day. We may not even have a tomorrow; today is all we have.  Therefore, we are happy that we survived another day in this war. We are happy that there are these Dutch people in a distant country who care enough to give us these food products and soap!

Despite all the hopelessness, I have something to fight for – I must fight for Lily’s immunity and for the lives of my children.  I no longer make any plans or hopes. There is only today and we thank God for this day praying that the things don’t’ get worse…” Olena shared with tears in her eyes.

There are thousands of families with children living in at least 32 frontline settlements, who are fighting for life every single day. On their own, they are not able to provide food and education for the children who had been born at war. Thankfully, they are not alone. Many missionaries and caring people from all over the world have been supporting these people in need in the framework of our “Feed the Hungry” project.

Thanks to your donations, this project will continue to exist. You can choose any comfortable amount and make a donation for families like this here

Anna Chaban, CBN-Emmanuel

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