The Ukraine war one year on - some personal stories

15 February 2023

On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. In the days and weeks that followed, millions of people left their homes to flee the conflict, most of them women and children. It is the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Below are updates from some of those who have been involved in supporting those who have been displaced over the last twelve months.


Yulia Starodubets is an ordained Methodist Minister who left the capital Kyiv early in the war for the safety of west Ukraine.

Here, she has been working to support others escaping the conflict.

julia-starodubetsAlthough the fighting is currently less fierce than it was last year, it is still not possible to relax as each day brings more sad news.  We follow the events and we pray.
Since the war began, our support has become more organised. We provide shelter for 50 people a day, some are here for a short period of time, some for longer. We try to take care of them both physically and psychologically. We have people who were on the front line who have been badly injured and are missing limbs, these and their families need urgent help and rehabilitation.

We have received support from many Methodists around the world. Our shelters cared for 600 people in the first months and we would not have been able to continue this without help. We have been supported by the Methodist Church in Britain and other churches, including the United Methodist Church. Without the global Methodist family’s help, we would not be able to do these things.

We have a good team here in Western Ukraine but they are tired. We pray for each other, we encourage each other, and we move forward.

The main problem now for civilians is electricity. Across Ukraine it is only available for about six hours each day during the morning and at meal times.  This makes living difficult.

I tried to go back to Kyiv several times thinking it would be more peaceful now. It was for a while but it's become dangerous again with missile attacks. I decided not to move back because I have children. In the beginning of the war, when we took them from our home, they asked us why Russia tried to attack us. “They're so huge why do they need more land?”

The children pray with us each evening for peace and for justice.

To have our land returned and to have stable peace in our country. We ask you to pray for our ministers who are exhausted. For those Ukrainians who are being hosted in the UK, I ask you to pray for them not to lose hope and that they will come back home to us soon.


Methodists are being encouraged to provide a home for those seeking safety from the war through the Methodists for Ukraine scheme. 

Matt Ceaser is the Homes for Ukraine Support Officer.

matt-ceaserOne of the main ways individual Methodists and churches have responded to the war is through hosting and supporting refugees. It has been fantastic to see so many Methodists from Britain showing hospitality to Ukrainians. I have heard from many who have not only blessed others with a place of safety, but have been blessed themselves by new friends.

We know from our partners in Ukraine that a year on, there are still many Ukrainians who wish to come here but the supply of hosts has dried up. As the war evolves and continues, more people who stayed will be pushed to leave their homes.

If you have a spare room or an empty property and aren’t yet hosting, please consider doing so through Methodists for Ukraine. We can arrange a match for you, and give you the support you need to be ready to host.

It’s not too late – you could provide a safe refuge for someone fleeing war today.

Bridget Down is a Methodist preacher from West Devon who welcomed a family from Ukraine

The dream, the offer, the want to rescue, seem such a distant memory, the naivety immense! 12 months ago I stood in my kitchen and pressed a video call icon which entered me into a world so far from the rural idyll I inhabit. It left me uncomfortable and restless that a mother, a mother like me in many ways, was standing in a camp in Poland, desperate to leave the dangers they had travelled through and experienced. We had to help.

I knew what we could offer wasn’t much, it would be a stretch to house five adults and eight children, but with the help of great friends, the grandparents, and the two 18 year old girls could be given places of hope and safety. That left us with eight children and their mother, which over the various options on the farm, meant we could offer sanctuary.

As we travel towards a year of community living, we can see where culture has both rubbed and hurt and where culture has given new insight and joy!

We know that the family will be moving on in the summer to explore new dreams. This comes with bitter sweet emotions. Desperately, we all want the very best for our new found friends. Sad that the rural life cannot give them all they need. Worried that we need to put our hope in systems, which could seem rosier than they transpire.

By giving this family rest and rehabilitation, they can now tiptoe onwards to a new place, on their own journey, leaving us changed too. Changed for the good, reflecting that this past year has been one of travelling to a new place for each of us as well, seeing the world in a closer focus through the lens of people who view it very differently to us. Holding dearly the memories of noise, chaos, food and mud!

In the early weeks of the war, people poured across the border from Ukraine into Poland.

These people needed somewhere to stay, they needed food and care.  The United Methodist Church in Poland was quick to respond, appointing Szarlota Kamińska to the position of Coordinator for War Refugees.

polish-lessonsOne year on we have the same numbers of guests from Ukraine. We are helping our churches to pay for the accommodation, water, heating, electricity, food and clothes. We welcome these people into our buildings and parishes as our guests and friends. We have received money to support this work from churches across the world.  It’s amazing how many people are ready to help us in our work and we thank God for this commitment.

We have also been helping the people in Ukraine by organising transport with food, clothes and medical help, as well as helping an orphanage in Poland that is caring for children from Ukraine. Many of our churches are offering lessons in Polish to make it easier for our guests to feel at home in our country and to find a job.

Most people in Poland from Ukraine believe they will be able to be back to their old life soon. Meanwhile our Church, our people and our country are still ready to support the people from Ukraine.

With God's help we will be able to continue to help them.