by Milena Nikolaev
Milena and her husband, Andriy, are believers who fled Ukraine with their children.
A few weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, we found out we were expecting our third child. We are from the city of Sumy, Ukraine, which is approximately 30km from the border with the Russian Federation. Because of our proximity to the border, we learned about the invasion in the very first hours of 24 February 2022. At about five o’clock in the morning, my husband, Andriy, woke up, opened the window and heard the first explosions. I remember how I found out about this terrible tragedy. My husband came up to me, kissed me and said, ‘Sleep still, my love, because I don’t know when you will sleep peacefully.’
From the beginning, our region was invaded by enemy tanks, equipment and soldiers. Many of them went straight to Kyiv, others stayed behind, roadblocks appeared, fighting began on the outskirts and then in the city itself and the military school was shelled. Regular shelling began every evening and every morning. Early in the morning, we woke up to sirens and went to our basement, which became our shelter.
When the enemy hit an electric substation, our city and part of the region were left without electricity; many houses were without heating or water. Andriy is highly qualified and works in the energy industry, so he accompanied the territorial defence with his colleagues to restore the energy supply. At that time, I saw how God used my husband in his work.
I work as a teacher at the school that my children attend. When the hostilities began, our school premises began to serve other purposes. I went there with my children not to learn but to weave a camouflage net for protection. There were many women of all ages working there. When the alarm sounded everyone went to the basement. I remember the eyes of the children as we sat in the basement in the torchlight. I remember when the planes flew in and the sound of falling shells. Sometimes it seemed that everything was over. One day, I remember how we took the children by the hands and prayed to God; I said, ‘Now we will all go to Heaven together.’
Time to Leave
My husband looked at how the war was affecting the children, me and our unborn child and decided that we should leave. An acquaintance called us and we agreed to go together in several cars. We wrote the word ‘Children’ on the car and set off. Volunteers indicated the various routes that people could take along the country roads. It was difficult to understand where you were because all the road signs had been removed. The journey was long and not easy. When we reached a point that was closed for entry, we spent a night in the car.
However, we saw the Lord’s hand in how He took care of us and led us out of the city. Two hours after we left, our city was closed and no one was allowed to leave it. We later learned that the convoy of cars that went another way was shot at. The green corridor1 opened about a week later.
For a long time, the children, especially our son, shuddered at loud noises. Sometimes if there was a loud bang, he would run up to me, afraid of being shot. He still doesn’t like it when he hears the noise of planes flying low. I am grateful to the Lord who led us out at the right time and took care of us, along with other families. Strangers took us in, fed us and prayed with us. Each of these people will always be in our hearts and we thank God for bringing them into our lives.
We arrived in Romania with a few bags of things that we had packed in haste, we knew little about this country and didn’t know a single person. We didn’t have much of what we needed. However, God is great – His faithful children became a support for us, giving us shelter, food and clothing. The Lord used many people from different countries to bless us. All the stress threatened our unborn child but thank God everything turned out alright and soon Andriy found a job.
The aid centre for refugees was a great help to us. We met a Hungarian family and got to know Csaba Kabai. The blessings that we and many other Ukrainian families receive through his family have become invaluable to us. Each week we have groceries and access to tech so that our children can learn online.
The Lord used many people from different countries to bless us.
We are constantly reminded that we are not alone. If there is a need that is difficult for us to cover, we know that the Lord sends us help through His children. We are infinitely grateful to every person who has not been indifferent to our trouble. It is difficult for a family to start life from scratch but our hope is in the Lord. Most of the people who opened their hearts and invested their hard-earned money to help Ukrainians have never been to our country and do not know our family at all, which makes us appreciate their help even more. We pray to God, we pray for each of you and we ask Him to thank you one hundred times – may God bless each person.
Witness in Ukraine
Our church in our home city of Sumy is active and has many different ministries including for children and teenagers, camps, family and women’s groups, Sunday school, a ministry for children with special needs and Bible study groups. Our family were active participants in various groups. So it is especially difficult now; our hearts ache and we shed many tears for our brothers and sisters in our home church. We miss them but as the danger has not gone yet, we stay away for our children’s sake.
The last outreach that we were involved in before we left Ukraine, was a puppet theatre with a performance and preaching of the Word of God. We had the opportunity to visit kindergartens, schools and shelters for children as well as hold performances in the church building – it was a time blessed by God. Now our church is filled with unbelievers who have begun to seek God in difficult times. Our brothers and sisters who remained in Sumy carry out their services in the name of the Lord. Since the start of the conflict, there has been a great focus on humanitarian assistance. Not only in the city but also in the surrounding villages, our fellow believers provide food packages and share the Word of God. The church remains alive and the Lord is always faithful.
May the Lord give peace to our country, and bless and preserve yours. With love and gratitude from the Nikolaev family.
- for the Nikolaevs and other Ukrainian families
- for Christians in neighbouring countries who are supporting Ukrainians
- for believers who are faithfully sharing the gospel in war-torn areas.