OPINION: Letter from Liosha in Ukraine

Liosha with the family he saved in Chernihiv. (Courtesy Photo)

“Before the trip, I received a special task ― to take out four wounded children with their mothers from the regional children’s hospital in Chernihiv and take them to L’vіv. The night before, the Russians had bombed the only bridge leading to Chernihiv. Other routes to enter the city are controlled by the enemy.

But we decided to go to Chernihiv anyway. There were ten cars and we learned that there is also a footbridge. We hoped that people would be able to cross it and we would pick them up near the bridge. We arrived at the last village before Chernihiv and were not allowed to go further. The footbridge was closed; no one was allowed in; it was being shelled. We decided to wait. There were explosions all around us.  The military asked us to disperse around the village because too many cars in one place are a good target. 

We prayed, we waited.

Finally, people were allowed to cross the footbridge. At this end of the bridge, cars were waiting for people and to take them to the nearest village.

The wounded children I had to pick up could not walk. I went to negotiate with the military so that my minivan would be let through the footbridge to the hospital. I had to talk to the commander. He called the doctor so that the doctor would confirm that they were waiting for me in the hospital. Miracle of all miracles ― they let me cross the footbridge when no one else was allowed.

Our guys looked at me as if they were saying goodbye to me. While I was driving across the bridge, people walked towards me on foot. Some elderly people lay right on the ground — they couldn’t go any farther. Their relatives unsuccessfully tried to raise them.

I got to the hospital in the city and took the wounded children. To get to the footbridge, we needed to go through three checkpoints. They wouldn’t let me through at the first checkpoint. They sent me to the chief at the second checkpoint. They didn’t let me through either. A woman with injured children called her military husband. They still wouldn’t let us through. I went to the third checkpoint near the bridge itself. The major was there; he remembered me, because on the way to Chernihiv, I helped them with fuel. Thanks to the major, we were let through at the first checkpoint. But at the second checkpoint they wouldn’t let me through again. 

“Go and ask — over there is the head of the region.” I went. I waited, I asked.

He found out that I had wounded children in my van. He promised to let me out first. The situation was very tense. Lots of people, lots of cars. It was not clear who should go first: the military, the humanitarian aid or the people. They can bomb at any moment. Everyone wants to leave.

Finally, we were let through.  At the third checkpoint, the major asked us to take one old man. He lies near the road ― he cannot walk. We barely dragged the old man wearing three jackets into the car. He doesn’t want to take them off. People were freezing living in basements for a week.

Then I rushed through the field at high speed to the nearest village and further to Kyiv in order to be in time before curfew. I have never traveled so fast in my life. God saved us and we managed to arrive at our house 20 minutes before curfew. 

It was the craziest trip of this war. God protected, guarded and saved these children. An hour and a half later, as I left Chernihiv, this footbridge was fired upon and it was closed. It has been two days and still none of the inhabitants can leave the city.”

These were two emails sent by CRU staff members in Ukraine to our good friend Rich Leary who spent many years in Ukraine spreading the Gospel.