Refugees in Ukraine: the real problem and the real solution

Ukraine (MNN) — The refugee crisis in western Ukraine is overlooked by the world partly because of the more violent statistics of Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria.

According to Wally Kulakoff of Russian Ministries, another reason people are pulling the shades on Ukraine is because Russia doesn’t want the world to know how bad it is.

“The crisis is reaching proportions that the country does not want to acknowledge,” Kulakoff says.

Tens of thousands of people are taking refuge in west Ukraine (photo courtesy of Russian Ministries)

Tens of thousands of people are taking refuge in west Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Russian Ministries)

He explains that Russia wants to be viewed as a problem solver, not a problem maker. “The Russian government does not want the world to know that this is a crisis. They would like the world to see that this is a choice of the people whereby they will choose Russia instead of the west.”


Kulakoff says that the refugee situation is real: “It is a crisis, and God has allowed us to be a part of this as a way to help them.

“The reason they leave is because the hospitals have been bombed, the railway stations have been bombed, and the bus stations have been bombed. So they try and leave this area of chaos and the area of turmoil, the area of battlefields, to an area that’s quiet,” Kulakoff continues.

They arrive without money, without food, and usually without a place to stay.

Sometimes families are looking to enroll their children in school because it has stopped in the areas of conflict.

Some men or women stay for their job in Crimea, lose it, and then have no way of reuniting with their family across closed borders and poor communication.

While the exact amount of refugees is difficult to record, Kulakoff says there are numbers available representing the degree of concern into which the situation has developed.

He explains that while the government refuses to acknowledge the state of need, Christians and NGOs are offering up a helping hand.

“The churches are opening up their doors; the churches are hosting refugees. [We] have 20,000 from Crimea and about 17,000 from the Eastern Ukraine.”

These churches are under-equipped to deal with the astonishing numbers asking for their help, and the problem is growing.

“It’s rising every month, and this is something that the churches did not expect,” Kulakoff says. “The evangelical Christians were not ready for this.

“But they are learning. They are learning how to cope; they are learning how to help people who have lost everything who have come to a new location, just with their children, just a bag.

“The largest number of these refugees left Crimea and went back to Ukraine because of association with Ukraine. They want to have their own culture, they want to have their own language, they want to have their own identity as being Ukrainians.”

The 17,000 from eastern Ukraine are displaced people (IDPs), though only recently are governments reportedly working to register them as such.

Some Ukrainians are even rushing into Russia. Kulakoff says this is because “they feel an affinity with the Russian people.

“Russians are leaving Ukraine, going to Russia, and the Internally Displaced People are not recognized as refugees because the government does not want to acknowledge the fact that there are refugees in connection with this crisis,” Kulakoff says.

The splitting of the Ukrainians is the beginning of a new identity for the country and a new future.

Kulakoff says, “All of the sudden, a nation is being born, a nation of Ukraine is being born, and those who consider themselves Russians are going back to Russia.”

Emotionally, the refugees have a difficult time knowing how to cope–not only with the conflict going on around them, but with the conflict going on inside of them.

The reality of the situation creates a sort of vacuum of hope within the person. The answer to that? Kulakoff explains in a story of one woman from Crimea seeking refuge in Ukraine with her two children.

She was without a home and came into contact with the Gospel of John from School Without Walls: she read that Christ was preparing a place for her in His Father’s home and would come back to bring her there.

She responded by saying, “I’m not ready. I’m not ready for when Jesus comes back. How do I become ready?”

She was able to go to a Bible study and learn more about Jesus Christ.

This is the answer, as Kulakoff explains: “People are beginning to [counter] their fear by finding God, finding Jesus Christ, finding the Body of Jesus which is the Church. And in the Church, they find a new peace, a new assurance.”

The alternative, Kulakoff says, is much harder.

“Non-Christians have an enormous task to overcome some of the internal fears, the internal struggles. But the Christians have hope, the Christians have a place where they can find a new family in the Body of Jesus Christ.”

Kulakoff says the physical needs aren’t necessarily the most important needs to address. “The needs that we have today are Spiritual needs. The Spiritual needs that are the internal needs of the people: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness. These aspects do not exist in a non-Christian society.

“Those who find Christ during these crisis moments are the most fortunate people because they overcome their emotional needs. They overcome their physical needs because the Body of Christ begins to provide and help them, and they overcome some of the stresses in life which the non-Christian people encounter.”

While evangelical Christianity is widely accepted in Ukraine, they are not receiving the same treatment in Russia.

“The crisis does exist, the churches have opened up their doors, and today there’s interference with churches on Sundays when they have a worship service. Those people who want to create disruptions and chaos within the country disrupt the evangelical meetings and disrupt church services and in fact break windows, break doors, break down the prayer tents they have,” Kulakoff says.

Kulakoff says what might be behind it is that Russia wants to give the world their own moral answer to the issues. “I think there is an intention in the Russian government to give the world an alternative. There’s Islam, there’s the West, and then the Russians want to give the world another side which they have never supported previously which is the orthodox version of Christianity.”

The Russian Orthodox Church supports the Russian Nationalist movement.

The matter is close to Russian Ministries’ heart. “This refugee crisis is a crisis of proportions where the church was not ready, the missions were not ready, and the government was not ready. So we are mobilizing–as a mission organization–churches, young people, and providing even boxes for people to fill and to meet the refugees as they come into their city,” Kulakoff says.

They are asking for your help as they step up to assist the thousands of refugees.

“The opportunities are great, the spiritual need is great, the physical needs are enormous, and we did not expect such numbers of people,” says Kulakoff. Yet, he doesn’t view the situation as a burden: “Today is a day for opportunity.”

“We are calling upon the American people to pray for this part of the world because it is during the storm that people begin to say “‘Jesus, can you wake up? Jesus, wake up because the storm is upon us.’

“Pray for the people. Pray that those who do not know the Lord will somehow come to know Him because there are agnostics, there are communists, there are atheists, there are people who are frightened today, disturbed, distressed, so pray for them.”

You can also provide for them. Give to the Ukraine Emergency fund on their donation page. They are providing the Gospel of John and the Gospel of look along with a $50 food box that provides food for a week.

“Twenty-five cents provides a Gospel of Luke or provides a Gospel of John. And we do not have enough Gospels of Luke or the Gospels of John for all the requests that we have and. And we have already printed 400,000.”

Churches are asking for 10,000-15,000 Gospels at a time.

The final thing you can do is petition for the refugees and IDPS.

Kulakoff says, “Petition for them the local governments, the local churches, petition with them your neighbor, and get together and begin to talk about these things and to somehow begin to change the world through the small steps that they can make.

“Thank you, American people, for praying, thank you for providing, and thank you for petitioning for these people who are internally displaced.”