Day 14 – On the front lines of the War Zone, Near the border of Ukraine and Russia.

Slavyansk from carissa 4

August 14, 2017 – Day 14 of a 26 day, 11 flight and 4 country adventure, Capturing Grace in France, Ukraine, Russia and Spain.

The impact of tragedy does not end with the event from which you were traumatized. Once your brain, heart and soul experience an unexpected and senseless tragedy you no longer see life as you did.

When the residents of Kramatorsk, Ukraine experienced the impact of the 2014 attack from Russia their lives would never be the same. This viscous bombing took the lives of over 10,000 peaceful Ukrainians. The battle scars have never been repaired on the structures seen in these photos and neither have the mental scars from the the people who call the Donetsk region their home. Once your village has experienced the tyranny of aggression from a neighbor who still lives next door it impacts how you live and the fear that dwells in your head.

I spent these past two days with Ukrainian troops as they recounted stories of defending their country against powerful and overwhelming aggression, defending with weapons resembling World War II. Tears welled up in their eyes as they recounted stories of watching their love ones run from the bombs, seeing the head of a brother being blown off before their very eyes, a daughter breathing one moment, silent the next.

The media has lost interest in this area and has gone home, but the war continues. This is now a war of intimidation more than a war of aggression. The shelling that is still heard at night from the enemy tells the people “we are still here, we have not gone away”.

I have been on some rough rides in my lifetime but nothing has ever come close to this. I rode with soldiers over roads so destroyed that only the pressure of our bodies pressed against each other kept my head from smashing the ceiling from the deep potholes and terrain. We visited the front line soldiers and sat with them in deeply dug trenches.

On our second day at the front lines, our teams visitations were cut short due to shelling from the enemy. Each time I experienced the sound of automatic weapons being fired indiscriminately, followed by the earth shaking blast from shells, a heavy silence fell over those around me. Today the shelling was too close for us to bring supplies to those on the front line.
We are only miles from the border of Russia, in the middle of a very disputed and confusing no mans land. I am photographing where the War in Donbass broke out on April 4th, 2014 killing over 10,000, life here will never again be the same.

I am here to photographically document the work of Pastor Dudnik’s Good News church in Slavyansk. This church has trained 28 teams that bring good news to the war torn region that I visited. Their impact spans a border of 300 miles. Over my two days in the area I rode with four different teams bringing the love of Jesus to the front lines in the form of food, supplies, ears to listen, hearts that care and hands that help.

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” – Ben Okra

[In August my daughter Carissa and I set off on a 26 day, 11 flight and 4 country adventure, Capturing Grace with our camera’s as we journeyed through France, Ukraine, Russia and Spain. I am now back at home in the US, posting about the experience of those twenty six days from my journal]


1 Comment
  • theRands
    Posted at 07:06h, 24 November Reply

    Thanks for writing about this. I’ve been wondering what’s become of the conflict there. As you said, the media has indeed been quiet about the subject.

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