Maybe you have already heard of Bakhmut.
Maybe you are sick of hearing about Bakhmut.
The battle of Bakhmut has already claimed 30,000 lives.
Including two of our precious Ukrainian sons.
And it has not been won yet.
Nine years ago, a bright and bubbly Ukrainian boy named Sergi S. came into our lives. He was the kind of kid who instantly made a positive impression. A natural leader, Seroja was popular with his teachers, caregivers, and peers at the orphanage – always willing to give us a hand on our frequent visits. He was full of life! Even before Seroja was old enough to go to school, he had a strong and loving connection to the orphanage. His grandmother was a beloved orphanage teacher, and her modest home was situated almost adjacent to the education building. Seroja’s older brother, and their single Mom lived with Granny until she passed away. Sadly, the small family began a downward spiral shortly after Granny’s death. The older brother started acting out, and Mom turned to alcohol to cope with their new situation. Mom was soon persuaded that the boys would be better off, if they were in the care of the orphanage teachers and staff, and she signed them away, herself dying just months later.
The transition for Seroja was relatively easy, as he always felt at home in the orphanage. When 9th grade graduation arrived, we invited Seroja to come to Cherkasy, and to be a part of our Orphan Graduate program. However, his auntie had connections with the Marines, and she wanted him to continue onto a higher level of education. Seroja was soon to become a cadet, and shortly after spending a week with us at our summer camp, he was put on a train to Odessa. At first, life in the cadet force was hard for Seroja. He called and complained to us that he was so homesick, and that everyone in Odessa teased him about his village accent. He was also quite a bit further behind in his studies as well as quite a bit skinnier than the other boys who had not been raised in an orphanage. We prayed with him and reminded him about all of the truths he had learned. The following year, he astounded us by how much he had grown – physically, academically, and spiritually! We stayed in touch during the 5 years he was a cadet and helped him out when he occasionally got himself in a pickle. When the war broke out, we were crestfallen and conflicted, as we knew Seroja would no doubt be thrown into a war to defend Ukraine.
And that’s exactly what happened. Seroja had been serving on the front lines with his Marine unit for over a year. Many times, while on leave, he would contact us to let us know how he was doing, and where in Ukraine he had been fighting. The ravages of war are real and like all soldiers in Ukraine, Seroja experienced and saw far too much. Last week, Seroja and two of his fellow marines stumbled across a hidden killer, as a landmine took all three of their lives. He would have celebrated his 23rd birthday next month. His funeral was yesterday, only steps away from the orphanage where he spent such happy times.
Andriy V. was living his best life – in Greece of all places! After college, this go-getter managed to land himself a job in Rhodes, working alongside other English-speaking university graduates at local beach hotels. He developed a great community of friends with like-minded interests of travel, entertainment, and sports. Andriy was also an accomplished athlete excelling in martial arts, especially Tae Kwon Do. He was living happily in Greece… until Russia barbarically invaded Ukraine last year on February 24.
Andriy felt the unmistakable calling to return to his homeland and do his part to defend Ukraine. He said goodbye to his friends, home and life in Greece and made the arduous trek back to Cherkasy. Upon arrival, Andriy immediately enlisted in the army, and was assigned to a platoon. During his training back home, he reconnected with his childhood church. Before he left for the battlefield, he became reacquainted with Luda, one of Hope Now’s coordinators, and they vowed to keep in touch. You may remember, that last July, after Luda sent Andriy and his unit supplies, like our first aid kits, tourniquets, and medicine, Andriy sent us a video thank you message. It’s worth watching again – just click on the video below – it's only a few seconds long.
Tragically, Andriy’s army unit suffered immense losses during the past 2 weeks they were in Bakhmut. He called Luda and asked for prayer because it was a real hell there. He made a post on social media just days ago saying, “Friends, another urgent need! My platoon remains in Bakhmut, and there are 15 units of us. Two of our vehicles were destroyed in a week. We need a jeep like yesterday, preferably a pickup truck. I will be grateful again for your support Let's work together for Victory!” Unbearably, on Sunday, a flight of enemy missiles arrived in their trench and all the soldiers died.
Andriy’s brothers-in-arms told of his bravery and called him a warrior. His girlfriend said, “He made himself a warrior. You can adorn yourself with weapons and a cool uniform, but that will not make you a warrior. Andriy was a warrior in heart and soul. It is people like him who will bring us victory. He had an indomitable spirit.”
To help the soldiers in Bakhmut, please consider donating now. We cannot lose another Seroja or Andriy.