Irina's Story

Our team in Ukraine have known Irina and her family for many years. Throughout her evacuation from home and family, Irina provided us with an insight into her experience through social media. We want to share her story with you today, in her own words. Irina's posts are in bold.

GOODBYE TO THE PAST

DEPARTURE

"I had always dreamed of traveling. Now I am traveling through three countries in just a few days, and I can't stop crying. I am not a tourist - I have escaped the war. My whole life is in one suitcase, and I am a refugee. My heart stays in Ukraine. I will take with me what is left of it." On any other week, Irina is a typical 20-year-old college student. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed everything. Now she is one of the hundreds of thousands who have fled the raging war in her homeland.

To ensure her safety, her parents sent her on this journey. As Irina's mother said goodbye, she threaded her wedding ring onto Irina's finger with the words, "You will return it when we see each other again." Irina's parents and younger brother remained in Odessa. She was driven to the Moldovan border crossing by her father.

"Leaving home and family without knowing when I will return or even see them again is one of the worst feelings on earth" Irina knows what she's talking about!

AT THE BORDER

There's more than a mile-long wait to cross the border, and Irina's evacuation journey begins. She is alone in the sea of people. The night is dark. Irina's large suitcase has a broken handle, and she cannot pull it on the dirt road; she must carry the heavy bag.

"My hands shake, and tears roll down my cheeks. 'Now is not the time to freeze; get yourself together,' I give myself a pep talk. But tears come as I stand on the border with hundreds like me who have left their homes in hopes of finding refuge for their bodies and souls."

Irina is comforted by two other young women standing nearby. "Everything is going to be fine," they say. "You are no longer alone. You can come with us." The women are going to Greece and Irina to Romania, but they can travel together on this first stage of their journey. The night is frigid."no one taught me how to pack to be a refugee" Irina is cold, but it seems like a minor problem compared to the horrible new reality.

The wait in line continues into the night, and the tears dry for a moment. "We stand for a long time. I won't cry anymore. We tell stupid jokes and laugh nervously. We try to stay positive." Eventually, they cross the border leaving behind their homeland and former lives.

MOLDOVA

"Moldovans are people with a big heart. I haven't spent even a cent in Moldova yet. Volunteers were waiting for us on the other side of the border and put us on a free shuttle bus to their capital city Chisinau. They provided blankets and warm clothes and gave us some food and drink. I could not refuse the nuts with condensed milk. It tasted like my childhood…."

The young women are grateful to receive the help and care shown to them. Before arriving in Chisinau, a volunteer gave Irina 400 leu (Moldovan currency) and her phone number: "If you need help, call me. You can call at any time." Irina will later use the money for a bus ticket to get from Chisinau to Bucharest. Miraculously, the ticket costs exactly 400 leu.

In Chisinau, a local aid organization receives the refugees, provides food, and makes sleeping arrangements. Irina and her new friends are taken to a small village, an hour and a half drive from Chisinau. Their driver is a father of two who has been transporting refugees to shelters in his car for three days. That night the young women slept in the home of a 75-year-old grandmother.

"Grandma doesn't know our language well, but like all grandmothers, she tries to pamper us with as much food and drink as possible."

The next day, they are taken to a new a family. "The family warmly welcomed the six of us into their home. They greet us with a table set like a banquet feast. We take showers and sleep in comfortable beds."

As the refugee evacuation continues, the family gives everyone a big food package for the trip. They take Irina to the bus station and send her on a journey accompanied by prayers.

"God bless these people and pay them back a thousand times over! Words are not enough to tell how moved I am about what they have done for me, a stranger. And they will continue to do so for every Ukrainian."

SAFE IN ROMANIA

When Irina arrived in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, six days after the start of the war, she made contact with friends. One of Mission Possible Ukraine's workers and her daughter is also a refugee in the city.

"Just six days ago, my biggest challenge was writing a graduation thesis and juggling university and work. Now I can't study, and I pray I can still finish my degree. Before I wanted to sleep for a long time and wake up without an alarm clock - now I barely sleep at all. I wanted to live alone - now I'm hundreds of miles from home.

Alone. I have dreamt of living in another country. Now I change countries and cities as fast as I change socks. My dream came true, but I had thought of traveling on a student visa and not as a refugee. My wishes have come true, but in a very different way than I had thought. Nevertheless, I believe that God is turning everything for the better."

Irina is safe now. But worries about loved ones and friends. She is shocked at the outbreak of war and feels loss for her former life, her country, and the people left behind.

Mission Possible will help Ukraine. However, the Ukraine to which Irina and the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees will hopefully return has changed profoundly. But amid even the most shocking events, we have a God who will not be shaken. He is a God of comfort, peace, and love, power to heal broken hearts and give a future and hope.