Bent But Not Broken

March 8, 2022

In Lviv, they can barely keep up. There are 200,000 mouths to feed, as women, children, and the elderly pour into the city along the western border. "But the trains are still going," the mayor warns, "and the numbers are growing." In other cities, shelters are at capacity. As families crowd into tiny underground spaces for days on end, places like Mariupol and Volnovakha are running out of food and water. "People are there 11 days now," one of the men says. "[They] are sick... There is no toilet... The basement only gets fresh air when there is no shelling," which lately, is rare. But Ukrainians are not broken, they want people to know. Not even close.

"Few expected such strength from our people," Col. Sviatoslav Stetsenko agrees. "Because, when you haven't slept for three days, and when you only have one dry ration because the rest burned up, when it's negative temperature out and there is nothing to warm you, and when you are constantly in the fight, believe me, it is physically very difficult," admits. "But our people endured this."

That courage starts at the top, fueled by heroic President Volodymyr Zelensky, who Monday night stunned everyone by appearing in his downtown office. "I'm staying in Kyiv," he announced by video. "I'm not hiding—and I'm not afraid of anyone." Inspired by his stand, as many as 140,000 Ukrainians from other countries have streamed across the Slovenian, Hungarian, and Polish borders to fight, CBN's George Thomas reported from the ground in Lviv. And it's not just native Ukrainians either. "Close to 3,000 Americans have signed up and are either here or are on their way to Ukraine as part of the initiative by the Zelensky administration to allow foreign fighters to come into the country and stand shoulder to shoulder with their Ukrainian counterparts," he explained on "Washington Watch."

And the result, Thomas went on, is that here we are "12 days into this invasion, and Russia is losing the war." Yes, he conceded, they have corners of Kyiv surrounded. "They took Sumy in the south, a very strategic city. They have encircled Mariupol, another very strategic city... and they are continuing their advances in the eastern part of the country." But let's face it, he pointed out. This was a war the Russians thought they could win in 48 hours, and "they are stuck—literally—in the mud in the northern part of Kyiv." What's more, he said, "the Ukrainians are putting up a very, very stiff fight and in places where... they are surrounded. Thousands of Ukrainians are coming out and confronting these Russian soldiers, waving the Ukrainian blue and yellow flag in the face of these Russian soldiers. I mean, it's incredible. Talk about defiance."

The Ukraine of 2022 isn't the Ukraine of 2014 when Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea, Thomas insisted. "They've gotten a lot more weapons in the last eight years. They've beefed up their ability to defend themselves and go on the offensive." This past weekend, he had the opportunity to go to an "undisclosed location" far away from Lviv to get a sense of what was happening. And he was impressed at the number and complexity of the fortifications throughout that part of the country. "They had put up sandbags. They had erected concrete slabs." At each checkpoint, there were civilians on guard, armed with AK-47s and other weapons. "You've got to zigzag through [the barricades]," he pointed out. "They're building structures, digging trenches... They are not taking any chances whatsoever."

In the meantime, the international outcry is to the northeast and northwest, where Putin has been firing rockets into residential areas. "They're not going after military structures," Thomas said. "You're talking high-rise apartment complexes. They're going after hospitals. They're going after churches. They're going after schools... So the question that the International Criminal Court is asking is, ‘Are the attacks against these civilian structures tantamount to war crimes?'" Some people, including U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, insists they are. But regardless, Thomas says, "My sense here is that you see a desperation on the part of the Kremlin."

And Putin isn't helping his case by shelling areas close to the humanitarian corridors. Organizations on the ground have been pleading for a ceasefire to get their convoys of supplies to people stuck in bomb shelters for days without water and food. "Russian occupiers keep shelling" Oleksiy Kuleba tells the media. "[They] do not give guarantees."

The network of Ukrainian churches, on the other hand, is doing everything they can to step in and fill the void. "Talk about being the hands and feet of Jesus," Thomas says. "Churches have basically turned every square inch of their structure[s] into a shelter of Christian homes... People are just opening up their homes to complete strangers." One 22-year-old he talked to, Anastasia Mochar, lives in a tiny Lviv apartment with her brother and still opened it up to five strangers fleeing Kyiv. Her mother is hosting 24 more. "I was raised in a family where our home was open to other people," she said. "We were always helping people who were going through a difficult time."

"This is the spirit of Ukraine," Thomas insisted, "the sense that in the middle of fighting a battle, they're also opening their homes and being the hands of Jesus."

If you'd like to help, there are Christian groups on the ground near the Ukrainian border as we speak. The team at Samaritan's Purse is one of them—setting up an emergency field hospital with the capacity to do 14 major surgeries a day. They'll have an intensive care unit, 60 beds, and an emergency room. "Ukrainian families are hurting and in desperate need of physical aid and prayer during this difficult time," Franklin Graham urged. To donate, click over to their Crisis in Ukraine page.