CBF field personnel Gennady and Mina Podgaisky have served in Kyiv, Ukraine, for 20 years. From a safe location in the U.S., they remain in constant contact with Ukrainian pastors and leaders, conducting grief counseling, helping Ukrainians find safe locations and providing financially support for those fleeing the country.
Learn more and support the CBF Ukraine Relief Fund at www.cbf.net/ukraine.
Below is the translation of a letter from a Ukrainian refugee who escaped the city of Mariupol. CBF field personnel Gennady Podgaisky received the letter from a ministry partner who is helping people to flee from the occupied territories and besieged cities in the East of Ukraine on March 20.
If we would not have left this morning, we would not be alive now; at least I would not have survived. People were leaving from our basement, there were less and less people in the basement. We heard that some people were able to escape this hell, but those were only hearsays, nobody could check it or know for sure if they made it to safety. In our basement neighbors were disappearing one by one. As soon as someone could find gasoline for the car or friends with a car. Nobody was saying farewells, nobody was gathering and taking things with them, people dropped everything and just run to the exit.
Last night half of the basement compartments became empty. In our basement, neighbors also were planning to leave, but they could not because of bombardment. I assume there were several planes; they flew every half an hour and dropped 2 bombs at a time. Now there are more, the earth was shaking from explosions, 4 and sometimes 6 times in 5 minutes. They were bombing us very hard as like they were trying to dig into the earth every tree, every house, every human soul.
We could not sleep for several days in a row. I would name our condition as half-sleep all the time because day was turning into night and then day again, we could not keep our eyes open, but the body was wide awake. According to probability theory the bombs were supposed to hit our building next, they already bombed all the multi-story buildings around. Many of them only half-buildings are left.
I did not know if there are people left in the basements of those buildings; and if there are, then what do they feel? I do not feel almost anything right now. I seems to me that there is nothing around, that I am seeing a nightmare. Soon I will wake up, get up from my bed, and go wash my face and will have some tea.
And then, that giant upstairs was rumbling with the iron, he was walking on my land. In the beginning, before shelling, this sound was making me crazy. It seemed that someone was moving something big, metallic, and scary. What could it have been?
I started having stupor, I was sitting on a chair and was afraid to move. I was just stupidly staring at the concrete floor with the rubble on it, and thought, “this is it,” I will be like that all the time. I did not care anymore. I just wanted that it will be over soon. In the basement there were no toilets; each person was going to his/her apartment to use the restroom. I had to go up to the fifth floor, but I could not force myself to move; I had to climb out of the basement and get into the stairwell. I did not have courage to do that.
Here in the basement, my little nephews and nieces were laying in somebody’s beds covered with somebody’s blankets dressed with jackets, hats, scarves and with shoes on. Before we came to the basement, there used to be an Azerbaijani family with 11 children. This family left the city a week ago and I heard that they reached a safe place. I got this info from the other neighbor who risked his life to get out to warm some water on the fire. It was a short break in bombing; we had whole 15 minutes with no bombing.
I was very sorry for the children; they almost did not talk. Nobody was talking, we all were listening to the planes. Those planes were flying very close and were dripping endless bombs.
The earth was sagging, the building was shaking, somebody in the basement was screaming in fear, I was afraid even to imagine what was happening outside. It seemed like our building was in the middle and all the bombs were exploding around it. Everything outside was in bomb craters and bomb fragments. In the morning, when I saw what was left from our building’s yard, I did not have any emotions…I was looking and standing there. That was not my city.
According to the information from the volunteers, between 20,000 and 40,000 people have left the city. There are still 300,000 citizens staying. And they continue to be killed…”
Find updates from CBF field personnel providing ministry to Ukrainian refugees at www.cbf.net/ukraine-response.