Eva’s War Diary (17): Distress and Small Miracles in Ukraine


Ukrainian War

Eva’s War Diary (17): “Without her Bible, Sveta would be dead by now”

Eva Samoylenko-Niederer writes about the great difficulties, the small miracles and the wonderful story of the Bible of Sveta.

Until the outbreak of the war, Eva Samoylenko-Niederer from Wädenswil ran the “Sails of Hope” children’s home in the Donbass. She fled to western Ukraine with her family and writes regularly about her daily life during the war.

An abandoned old woman is evacuated from the war zone.


Again and again I hear stories that make me realize how real war is. For example, this story that our helper Evgenyj told me about a woman he met in the Donbass: “Don’t stay in your house, let yourself be evacuated now”, Evgenyj told the woman.

“Not yet! Our goat is pregnant,” the woman replied. “We have a deep basement and we have enough food there. Don’t worry about us. Better bring us some fresh bread next time.” So Evgenyj came back a few days later to bring bread. But there was no house or stable with a pregnant goat or cellar.

And there was no longer anyone who could eat the bread. Everything was blasted to pieces.

Every day, every trip of our support teams is a game with death. Between artillery strikes, we reach towns and villages to give the elderly, bedridden and stubborn one last chance to escape. Our volunteers descend daily into air-raid shelters and search homes for abandoned people whom they then literally drag out of the house and into safety.

In evacuation vehicles, seats are often occupied twice.

In evacuation vehicles, seats are often occupied twice.


Since the start of the war, our teams have evacuated more than 15,000 people from acute war zones. In addition, we were able to distribute several hundred tons of relief to desperate people.

But our efforts are getting harder every day. Due to the extreme shortage of fuel, residents of Donbass are advised to limit the use of their cars so that there is enough fuel for the army. The queues at gas stations are so long that you can earn money (up to 30 francs) by queuing for other people.

Eva Samoylenko-Niederer in her hometown of Sloviansk in mid-February 2022.

Eva Samoylenko-Niederer in her hometown of Sloviansk in mid-February 2022.

Samuel Schumacher

Worse still, the Russian army began shelling the Lisichansk-Bakhmut road, which locals dubbed the “road of life” after the outbreak of war. The road was the last navigable link between the Eastern Front and central Ukraine. This is the route that our teams take on a daily basis.

The bitter struggle for eastern Ukraine continues. My hometown of Sloviansk has been attacked from the air several times in recent days. A bomb fell less than a kilometer from our parish, damaging a trade school. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries. Following the air raids, much of the forest burns north of the city.

The smoke in the city is so thick that residents are advised not to leave their homes.

And yet, there are still things in this war that give me hope. For example, the story of Sveta from the town of Solote, right on the old Donbass boundary line. When the full-scale Russian attack on Ukraine began, Sveta decided to stay, pray and continue serving the people as she has done for years. On Sunday morning, April 17, things seemed calm and Sveta decided to go to church.

Sveta's Bible saved her life.

Sveta’s Bible saved her life.


But as she was returning home, an artillery attack unexpectedly began. A grenade fell a meter from Sveta. A man with her was killed instantly and Sveta was thrown to the side by the blast. Shrapnel pierced his thigh and leg. But the shard that would have been fatal in striking her heart instead struck her Bible to which she had clung. The Bible saved his life.

Sveta on a recording of peaceful times.

Sveta on a recording of peaceful times.


To give: All opportunities to donate to Sails of Hope can be found here: tinyurl.com/sailsofhope


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