COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The war in Ukraine has been raging for more than a year and a half. The war itself is half a world away, but the effects of war can be felt right here in Columbus.
“Everybody’s getting used to the war. And if your eyes don’t see, your heart don’t hurt,” explained Pastor Viktor Moskalyuk with Grace Evangelical Church.
His eyes have seen the war. He’s been to his home country of Ukraine four times since the war began. He moved to central Ohio a little more than 20 years ago, but still has family in Ukraine.
“I think Ukraine is fighting for the whole free world. Protecting their land, protecting their lives, risking their lives and laying their lives on the sidelines. Just, I’ve seen so many elderly people willing to go with shovels and forks fighting against tanks,” Moskalyuk said.
Moskalyuk has not stood on the sidelines. He has been hard at work, doing God’s work as he calls it, helping those back home.
“If you have ability to help and you see somebody in need, you would try to do it as a compassionate human being, understanding the value of life and seeing a desperate person,” Moskalyuk said.
Moskalyuk and Grace Evangelical Church are home to a Slavic congregation, many of them with ties to Ukraine. They started from scratch working to send aid to the eastern part of Ukraine. They had no experience, no logistical support in place, and have since send more than 200 shipping containers full of supplies.
“To send one shipping container from Columbus to Ukraine, delivered to the Western part of Ukraine it costs us eight thousand dollars. This is a major expense for us. And a lot of times we have to take a leap of faith,” Moskalyuk said.
The supplies are all donated from local partners, but the shipping costs come out of their pocket, and add up quickly.
“Once we load the container from here, to ship it to Ukraine about 4 weeks to get it over there. It’s not only just food, it’s emotional. People are like exhausted. We are rebuilding homes in the Kherson region right now as well. This is what the buildings look like, houses pretty much destroyed. A lot of people over there they don’t have water and everything in the frontline area. So this is the only means for them to wipe themselves off, you know to clean themselves,” Moskalyuk said.
It’s not just food and supplies. Grace Evangelical Church has helped more than a thousand Ukrainian refugees find a new home in central Ohio.
The church bought the property next door so they could house more people.
“Ten kids, they lost everything. Ten kids in the family. The woman was pregnant with her tenth child, coming and fleeing the war. Their home, everything devastated, completely destroyed. They barely made it out,” Moskalyuk said.
He showed picture after picture, and video after video of cities and villages in Ukraine that were reduced to rubble. Civilian homes and apartment buildings were destroyed.
“It’s either to have Ukraine defend themselves and fight against Russia or wait until Russia would come to United States and fight the war over here. And right now I think Ukraine is fighting for the whole free world,” Moskalyuk said.
Moskalyuk has mixed feelings when it comes to the U.S. Government aid to Ukraine. President Biden announced a proposal that would include around $60 billion for their fight.
“When we are talking about billions of dollars in aid going to Ukraine, people will think this is cash money that is handed over to them. A lot of this aid is basically given in the military equipment. And as you know one tank can cost million and millions of dollars,” Moskalyuk said. “Regular people can do more impact and bring more difference than all the politicians put together.”
He feels the U.S. should have taken bigger steps in the beginning of the war to stop it; he said it would have saved countless innocent lives. But he also admits, they cannot win the war by themselves and need the military help.
Right now, he’s preparing for his fifth trip back to Ukraine to bring supplies, support, hugs and a warm smile to the people there.
“If you would ask me, ‘Viktor why in the world you are doing this?’ I will tell you I do not know. My job is to love God, and to love people. Everybody can make a decision to make that positive story, to make that positive impact on the people around them on the people who are hurt today,” Moskalyuk said.
Grace Evangelical Church continues to take donations to help pay for shipping costs to send supplies to Ukraine. They are hosting a bake sale featuring many tradition Ukrainian dishes and pastries including homemade pierogi.
The bake sale is Nov. 4 at Grace Evangelical Church located at 1410 Hubbard Road in Galloway.