Well before 24 February, all my colleagues and acquaintances, from Ukraine and abroad who are confident in politics and are connected to different authorities, were saying that the war is going to start in Ukraine. My friends from different parts of the world tried to convince me to take my family abroad. But we decided to stay. I knew that the war was going to begin, but I firmly believed that God would save us. I couldn’t believe how, in the 21st century in the centre of Europe, such horror could ever happen.
The day of 24 February started for me with telephone calls from my friends and relatives who described the horrors of the war. They said they heard rockets, saw tanks, heard explosions.
Our life has changed. Endless crowds of people from Eastern Ukraine were fleeing to Europe via parts of Western Ukraine. They passed through Vinnytsia, (where Majors Kostiantyn and Irina Shvab were then corps officers) both during the day and at night, regardless of the curfew. The arrival of people was endless.
We opened the Vinnytsia Corps doors for people to sleep over. The number of people was too great for the corps building, so many of them stayed at our home. Our home was filled with people, different people, every day. Our house was so full that I had to step over people in our bedroom to get to the bathroom. People were sleeping on the floor because we had nowhere to put them. But people cried and thanked us for sheltering them.
From the first days of this war, horror gripped every Ukrainian. I do not know how God gave us the strength to hold on – a strength he still gives us. There was still some hope in our hearts that God was in control, and everything would end well.
I remember when I was delivering humanitarian aid in the Kyiv region. I was driving along the road that had recently seen tanks passing, and I saw destroyed cars – cars carrying peaceful people who were shot and burned alive. I saw destroyed houses. It is horror. It is pain and tears.
Despite all of that, I had hope that God was giving me hope. He still gives me hope to this day. Not just me, but thousands like me. We have hope that God is in control and will bring us all out.
I see and hear today that other states, other organisations, are helping Ukraine. My heart is filled with hope, my heart is filled with joy, that we are not alone. At the same time, every care shown for Ukraine, and for Ukrainians, fills my heart with the light that God controls everything. We are not alone, and we are not destined to perish.
I thank everyone who helped us, who is helping us. I thank God that I belong to The Salvation Army which, from the very first days of the war, has taken an active role in alleviating the suffering of other people – many people, adults and children. We clothe, feed, encourage, help in every way. I am proud to be a part of The Salvation Army which brings comfort, support and encouragement.
Even today, bombs and rockets are still whistling over us. There is still a threat of death over us today, but I don’t know. I am not afraid. I know that God holds us in his hand.
Major Kostiantyn Shvab
Ukraine Division Commander