From the first hour of the outbreak of the full-scale phase of the war, Kharkiv found itself under the brutal blows of Russian troops. They failed to capture the city, but missiles, artillery, and aviation caused it serious damage and disrupted the course of life of its residents. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the city, and in the first few months, the city found itself in a serious humanitarian crisis. The situation later stabilized, but Kharkiv’s proximity to the border with Russia keeps it tense.
Against this background, the small Evangelical Lutheran congregation of Holy Ascension together with the Diakonia-Ukraine foundation took responsibility for their neighbors to the extent of their modest abilities. Friends and partners of the congregation helped them greatly in their work.
The help the congregation provided to people also changes periodically. During a shortage of baby diapers, the congregations provided them to those in need. Later, the situation stabilized, but there were still shortages of diapers for adults.
The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland provided groceries and household detergents with the help of the Polish organization “Joannici Dzieło Pomocy”, which provided support for purchasing and delivering medication to Ukraine. Thanks to the diligent work of Serhiy Kaluhin, a member of the congregation’s council, the congregation created a stock of medicines, which are being gradually distributed among those in need. However, there are no major problems with the supply of medicines in Kharkiv.
Helping school employees became a special focus of the congregation’s humanitarian effort. It actively works with children and with the teachers’ help, has an opportunity to provide assistance to the children’s families. Together with the “Ukraine for Christ” mission, Kharkiv Lutherans handed food packages to 40 employees of the orphanage.
“We have never engaged in the mass distribution of humanitarian aid. We simply did not have enough people to deal with such large-scale projects. Instead, we focused on people with whom we and our parishioners can maintain constant contact. This helps us understand how much and exactly what kind of help these people need,” says Pavlo Shvarts, the bishop of GELCU and the pastor of the congregation of the Holy Ascension.
With the support of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, they purchased a supply of water and delivered it to the Ukrainian defense forces. Polish and German Lutherans helped purchase tactical first-aid kits and wound dressings for the military.
The congregation pays special attention to children. Even before the start of the full-scale war, the congregation run a Sunday school, music lessons for children’s development, arts and crafts, and language day camps. Since the beginning of hostilities activities had to be temporarily stopped, but in May they resumed once again.
The congregation building is in a relatively safe area of the city, which is not exposed to shelling by Russian troops, therefore, when the situation stabilized and it became clear that it does not pose an additional threat to the lives and health of children and employees, an opportunity gradually appeared to restore the children’s ministry.
Some children, who attended the groups before the war, remained in the city, with many new ones coming. Lessons in arts and crafts and food preparation are conducted by “Diakonia-Ukraine” employees Yuliya Krugla and Tetyana Hlibova together with volunteers from the congregation.
In August, thanks to computers and software purchased with the support of the Gustav Adolf Werk Foundation, the congregation started lessons in computer science. These classes are conducted by Georgy Masyuk, a volunteer, who teaches computer science in one of Kharkiv’s schools.
There are plans to conduct lessons four times a week, as well as to help children with the school program. Since the school is mostly online, there is a great need for additional help. The plans also include resuming Sunday school in autumn and starting teaching English language classes if enough students will come.