The Russian war in Ukraine is a military conflict with a long train of dead and wounded soldiers on both sides. Accurate numbers and long lists of names will only emerge over the course of weeks and months. It is also a humanitarian crisis of almost unimaginable proportions. Reliable estimates are that approximately 1.5 million Ukrainian civilians have already crossed the western border into neighboring countries like Poland, Moldova, and Romania. Millions more are coming, and tens of millions who remain in Ukraine will be displaced from homes, short on food, and lacking in power, water, sanitation, and access to medical services. Some of them are LDS. There were 11,000 LDS in Ukraine before the war began. Let’s talk about them and all the other refugees.
At the LDS Newsroom: “How the Church is Helping Refugees in Europe.” It’s a short article. Here’s a paragtraph:
Relief supplies — including sleeping bags, cots and tents — are being delivered to local government agencies, the Red Cross and other NGOs who are attending to Ukrainian refugees arriving in bordering countries. Additional aid is being organized. Church members and friends have also been invited to fast and pray for those so deeply impacted. More will be shared about their efforts in the coming days and weeks.
I can vouch for that. I know an LDS couple serving a mission in a neighboring country who just helped collect relief supplies and load them in a van, then drove eight hours to a town near the border to deliver them to a refugee welcome center. I’m sure they will do this several times in coming weeks. I’m sure you’ve seen the clips on CNN of cold and tired Ukrainians, often with children in tow, trudging across a border zone after long days travelling hundreds of miles with little rest and little food or water. There are relief sites set up just across almost every border crossing to provide them with a meal and a place to rest, with cots, blankets, and facilities. That’s where LDS supplies are being directed, it sounds like. Good work, Team LDS. Every little bit helps.
Local units are here in the US are organizing their own initiatives. One of the YSA branches in my stake is running a collection. We kicked in thoughts and prayers plus a hundred bucks, and received a response that our donation funded three blankets and some humanitarian kits. Every little bit helps.
Many of those crossing borders have family or friends somewhere in Europe where they can get a temporary home or perhaps a permanent one. To hear some accounts of LDS refugees, go listen to the Salt Lake Tribune’s Mormon Land podcast, episode 223, “The stories of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine.” I listened to it start to finish last week while cleaning the church on Saturday morning. A few themes that emerge: Emergency preparedness (a much better name and program than “food storage”) isn’t a joke, it can be really handy. All refugees struggle to keep in touch with family as communications become difficult or impossible. Church ties and fellowship transcend national boundaries. The gratitude they all feel for the help they have received from various sources is touching. Every little bit helps.
In that part of the world, these are very tough times. I’m sure some readers have their own contacts and have heard similar accounts. Share what you’ve heard.