Aid transport Aalen to Chernivtsi, Ukraine
Gert Pohl April 09, 2022
Here I would like to provide you with a little more detail. In this second trip, we were "only" traveling with one step van. But we had 8,000.00 euros of your donations with us. Our goal was to either buy our relief supplies from a location in Romania near the border, or maybe even explore the possibility of purchasing mainly groceries in the Ukraine in the desired quantities. We had heard about this possibility, but couldn't quite imagine that, because almost all organizations we had contact with either brought the groceries (mostly) from Germany or in some cases from cities near the border outside the Ukraine. This may be practicable for a large truck, but not when we have to pay around 2,500.00 euros for petrol and diesel for our minibuses and trailers (plus overnighting for 10 drivers and vehicle repairs) as was the case on our last trip delivering around 30 cubic meters of goods.
Here are our collected relief supplies. Sleeping bags, blankets, winter clothing and medical items such as surgical gowns, FFP-2 masks, disposable gloves, etc. On the right 4 tires for a Ukrainian Vito from Spiegler at a special price from Harald. In the middle at the front we see canned goods from wholesalers in our city for about 1,200.00 euros. In addition, we had medical bandages and first-aid kits for 1,000.00 euros (not in the picture). Purchased from Hartmann in Heidenheim.
This is what it looked like when almost everything was packed on Friday evening.
On Saturday morning we met for departure: Konstantin, Gert, and the two Ukrainians Boris and Oleg, who drove with us again.
The journey was exhausting, but around 24 hours and 1700 km later, we finally crossed the Ukrainian border via Austria, Hungary and Romania without any problems. I'll spare you the details of the long journey. Taking pictures was not allowed on the Ukrainian border.
Here we had our first rest at a gas station in the Ukraine. In the photo we had already refueled. When we got there it was still half dark and looked closed. The prices on the signs were not illuminated, neither were the pumps. Gasoline was rationed to 30 liters and you could tell that there was a war going on in the country.
We continued on partly well-maintained highways, but often on very bumpy country roads. The signs of war could not be overlooked as the checkpoints reminded us. Sometimes they were manned, but mostly without soldiers in the rural areas.
Our first stop was a small Baptist church in the countryside of south-west Ukraine. The village we drove to is called Anadoly in Chernivtsi Oblast. A small village in a very rural area, but with very loving people who made a happy impression (aside from the war) and have generally achieved a modest level of prosperity. We found these fellow believers to be very friendly, sincere and likeable. Despite the language barrier - which I very much regret - we immediately felt an inner bond with one another. I'm always amazed - whether in Africa or Ukraine - how the Spirit of God immediately builds bridges between people across cultural and language barriers. So we arrived in Anadoly early on Sunday, were warmly welcomed and proceeded to unload part of our cargo.
The supplies were quickly stowed away in the church's outbuilding at the back as we all pitched in together. This building is the hub where all the activities take place. As you can see, the building is not very old. If you compare it to the poor houses around, and also to Pastor Vitalij's house, where we were then invited to eat, you quickly realize how much work many people have done here as they put their own needs aside. In addition, this church was largely self-funded and established in cooperation with other churches. The people here are very skilled with their hands. If you can't read the writing, it says over the entrance: HOUSE OF PRAYER We had oval-shaped, paper Life-project stickers printed for this and for future relief efforts. This is so that wherever possible, we can trace the supply chain all the way to the recipient. We have generally asked our brothers and sisters to take some photos so that our donors can see that the relief supplies are actually getting to the recipients. We believe that this makes sense given the mountains of aid supplies piling up on the Polish-Ukrainian border that have not been dispersed, for example. So this is not about honoring us or honoring Life-project, but about providing proof of the responsible use of our donations. We are also pleased that our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are happy to document this via photos and that we also have their permission to publish it.
Unfortunately our time was limited. But we were prevailed upon to accept an invitation to have breakfast after which we were able to continue our journey with renewed vigor.
From left to right: Bruce, an American missionary, Boris our Ukraine leader, Gert, Konstantin, the pastor's wife (sorry I forgot your name) and Vitalij, the pastor of this small church. Vitalij is a very humble person and lives with his family in this house pictured below just a few meters from the village. Bruce is an American missionary from a church in Los Angeles. Bruce has been a missionary in this area with his family since the early 1990's and came to visit us. We could only talk briefly in English, which made me very happy again. We do not (yet) know what the exact connection to this church is.
Below: Not far from the church is the house of Pastor Vitalji (2nd from the right), unfortunately somewhat hidden.
Below are pictures of church members which we received in recent days. They document some of those who have received some of the supplies and demonstrate the work that has been done by our brothers and sisters in that area.
Below: The women of the community cook food rations for their soldiers at the front. These are then loaded into cars and it is not uncommon for the women to drive with them and care for the distribution.
The following text is written on the food containers:
Come back healthy and alive. Help for my hero - darling, we pray for you!
Ps: Don't forget to turn this container over.
So after about 2 hours we were on our way again.
Overwhelmed by the hospitality and commitment of these church members, we already knew that the long journey was worth it.
Our next destination
Our next stop was in the area of a larger city called Chernivtsi. In the vicinity of Chernivtsi there is a area called Shishkovtsi. There is an association of 13 churches with differing theological convictions that have joined forces to help their country in need.
The pastor of a larger church, who is also the coordinator, is called Leonid, whom we wanted to meet there. This contact came about through Boris, whose family we transported to Germany during the last trip and who is helping these fellow believers in Ukraine.
Our first stop was therefore in the village of Shishkovtsi at Boris' church.
Since it was Sunday and the service was still taking place, we had the opportunity to give a word of greeting from our church and our donors. I was able to experience my first Ukrainian church service.
Not that I understood anything. But this church is - like all churches in Ukraine at the moment - a suffering church.
I mentioned it in my pre-report and it was the most profoundly emotional moment for me to witness these old men pray in their pain and the women lament for their husbands and cry out their prayers to God. There are simply no words adequate to express the suffering we observed in this situation. I also notice that I'm getting more and more sentimental as I get older, and it really moved me inside.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
These words from the Gospel of Matthew have a very special meaning in this place. We have met fellow believers who do not complain, whine or withdraw in their pain when relating to one another. The opposite is the case. It is the women who support their husbands and encourage them to fight for their fatherland. These women seek and find their comfort in God, and likewise the men we have spoken to are not in doubt or despair. I was very impressed by the unity and, at least in these times, very intense support through faith in our Lord, which works through the local church. Here we meet brothers and sisters who unload their extreme need onto their LORD in order to then go to war strengthened and with confidence. Their own well-being takes a back seat to the benefit of others. I could not have imagined such trust in God and I doubt that I myself would be able to demonstrate such a trust if I were to experience war first-hand.
Below: Here is the small church. Above the archway is written: God is love
We didn't dare to take pictures during the meeting because we came in the middle of their church service and didn't have time to ask.
Deeply impressed by this church service, we then drove to Boris, whose family gave us excellent food and provided us with a very comfortable place to sleep.
We were very grateful for the hospitality and in the evening we enjoyed a wood-heated Ukrainian men's sauna with spring water and then enjoyed a relaxing bath. Also a special experience.
Let's go to Pastor Leonid
After a good night's sleep and rest, we set out for our next destination, not far away, where we were supposed to meet Pastor Leonid.
This association of 13 churches from this area has restored an old sports facility that was closed in the early 1990s and turned it into a reception center for families displaced by the war. This is the first point of contact for people and families from war zones, most of whom have lost their homes and livelihoods. Here they are provided with the essentials, families get a room with beds and are provided with clothing, medicine and food. After a few days, they will then be directed to the other escape routes. The capacity is about 150 people. When we got there, a group from the liberated city of Irpin had left the shelter the day before and there were about 40 people left. There was a request not to photograph the traumatized refugees, which of course we complied with.
The cruelty of war
The accounts we have heard here from the people who were liberated from Irpin and the pictures taken on their cellphones are just inhuman and you cannot fathom what twenty first century people are capable of.
We will not comment on this and will not publish the pictures that we received. There are no more words for these wretched atrocities.
Here we should simply pray for these persecuted and mistreated people and children, dead bodies of whose relatives are currently lying on the streets, and even these bodies have been mined by the Russian soldiers as they left Irpin. If they have not been eaten by stray dogs, their bodies rot in the street. Their relatives cannot recover and bury them until the minesweepers have done their work.
In this group of churches, the dimensions are somewhat larger in every way. Below are pictures of the building:
There is also a nice canteen kitchen and a dining room in this large building. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of this. The hallway with the room doors is taken from the central point and has the same length in the opposite direction. It offers space for around 150 people.
Below: Right next to the building is a large bunker from the 1930s that is still in good working order. Food is kept cool here. If necessary, people can find shelter a few meters underground.
Below: We unloaded the rest of our car at Leonid's. In particular, about 1 cubic meter of bandages, which we had bought from Hartmann, were already expected. But the rest of our 4.2 kg cans of goulash soup and pea stew were also well received.
Pastor Leonid, who started this work and coordinates it within the church network. On the right Konstantin Schneider from Aalen and travelling with us for Life-project.
By the way, without Konstantin we would be out of luck here. As a Russian-German, he is our universal translator for Ukrainian / German as well. After unloading, we sat together with coffee and pastries and discussed how to proceed. Leonid was delighted at the suggestion to go shopping at the Metro.
He assigned us two young men who have not yet been drafted. They accompanied us to the metro with a van.
When we got there, we couldn't help but be amazed!
Bulk purchase at Metro
After a short drive we stood in a huge parking lot in the city of Czernovitz in front of an even bigger Metro, which could just as well have been in Stuttgart or in Ohio.
What then followed after we exchanged our 3500 Euros into the local currency (Griwna) can best be expressed in pictures:
(compare the prices on the signs if you can read them):
We pushed cart after cart into the parking lot.
Below the result: We bought groceries and hygiene articles for around 3500 euros. Our car was full. With groceries labeled in Ukrainian at a price better than in Germany. And the saved fuel costs for 3500km are in addition to that... A kilo of onions 50 cents, carrots around 70 cents per kilo, Ukrainian apples around 30 cents per kilo, etc.
The transporter was pretty full after all was said and done...
Who would have thought! When we were finished with our shopping, we gave Pastor Leonid the equivalent of 300 euros to help with the shipping of the goods to those in need.
Then we gradually prepared for the journey home and on the way back we met Vitalij (the pastor from the small Baptist church), who brought us a group of refugees that we took with us to Germany. It was a complete family with 3 children and a very pregnant wife. These are now already on their way to America, where they intend to stay permanently with relatives or friends.
In addition to them, there was a family with 3 children, who followed us in their own vehicle. This family also had a contacts in Germany and was only taken in for a few nights by members of the "Lebenswert Christusgemeinde (church name)".
We already decided while at the Metro to give our fellow believers in the first small church in Anadoly an amount of 1,500.00 euros. And so we were able to take the opportunity again to say a very practical thank you to Pastor Vitalij for this service that his congregation and the families there do for their soldiers and refugees by giving him the funds to buy more food and relief supplies which we presented to him in your name.
I will soon create a detailed accounting report for the total sum of 8000.00 euros for this project and publish it in this blog. At the end of our trip we still had a small 3-digit amount left, which we will use for the next trip.
A special experience!
How deep the Christian faith of the Ukrainians is, is shown by a special incident that I absolutely have to tell you about.
On the way to the metro and back, we drove a long way through the city of Chernivtsi. I noticed that in many places we came across large posters in the Ukrainian colors of yellow and blue. Mostly with short sentences in Ukrainian. I then asked what they said and wasn't really surprised after all the things we had experienced in terms of trust in God and patriotism. Below you can see a few of these posters that I was able to spontaneously photograph from the car:
Impressions of a city in a state of war:
The posters are translated under the photos!
trust in the LORD Be strong and do not lose heart
Hour of defense of the father's house (or fatherland)
How You save, Lord and comfort the eyes of the moaning
Thank you God that my eyes have seen
the beginning of this new day!
Emmanuel God be with us!
All the glory to Jesus Christ!
Be with us LORD, Preserve and have mercy on us!
Give us dear God help so that the enemy may be overcome!
Live by conscience!
Hour of Defense of the Fatherland!
With you, my God,
I storm ramparts and I jump over walls.
Father, how embarrassed I would be before You if I went into a conquered city as a soldier and saw the bombed-out posters of those inhabitants whom I killed!
Lord Jesus, I pray for the enemies of Ukraine who are destroying this country. May YOU forgive them this shame.
I pray for Vladimir Putin, whose eternal soul I would not want to possess when he has to appear before your judgment.
And Lord Jesus, we all pray for our brothers and sisters and their children who have to endure this hardship day after day.