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In 2014, Sveta and I bought a house in the annexed section of Mykolaiv.

This section is called Balabanovka. Not long ago, the people of this area started a social media group to connect skilled people with people who had needs. This worked out very well.

When the war visited Balabanovka early in March 2022, this social media group altered their purpose. Now they organize the community to survive the war. Helping each other, they also help Ukrainian soldiers.

When explosions are heard, people write to the group and ask: “Are these our boys and girls shooting at the enemy, or Russian missiles coming toward us?”

Residents of our area weave camouflage nets, white for when there is snow. They send hand drawn pictures and the hand written prayer, “Our Father.” Candles are a great gift. Our fine people make candles that are so practical for the soldiers.

Delivery of water and food packages from the city administration, are an ongoing task. People collect money for volunteers to afford gasoline to deliver humanitarian packages. Some give $1.50, another gives $2.77, and still another $27.77. (The exchange rate was 36 UAH to $1.) Gasoline was $1.80 per liter. People give even from their small pension.

Since buses rarely run, drivers of personal cars write that at a certain time they can bring anyone to the center (our area is on the outskirts of the city, a former village)

The wonderful people of Balabanivka donate blankets, pillows, shoes, and furniture to those who are in need. Those who have the skills, help board up windows broken from the blasts. It doesn’t matter if those in need are neighbors in their community, or relocating from nearby villages that have been completely destroyed.

Without heat, there is a great need for another solution. Local craftsmen make potbelly stoves for locals and soldiers. The work is free, but they ask people for material for these stoves.

One woman wrote in the chat group asking for food for stray cats. They come to her yard; they must sense that she has a gentle heart for them. This woman adopted them and now she takes care of them daily.

Animals are deeply effected by the war also. The loud explosions, shock waves, and visual atmosphere disorient animals. When people find dogs that have lost their way, they post a notice with a picture on the Balabanovka social media group. It is a sweet reunion when pet and owner are reunited.

Why will Ukraine win this war? The most powerful reason that I see, is this. The Ukrainian people are fighting for their land, their culture, their lives. They are not sitting there watching the war go on. They are involved in the war. One way or another, they are all at war with Putin, the Kremlin, and autocracy.

Blessings of love and healing,

Sveta and Mark

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