Articles

Escape from Kyiv

Escape from Kyiv
CREDIT: Drop of Light / Shutterstock
Orysya Melnyk
Orysya Melnyk Orysya Melnyk, daughter of Anatolyy Melnyk, pastor of House of the Gospel in Khmelnytsky, Ukraine.
22 April, 2022 4 min read

In the early hours of 24 February, Russian bombs and missiles rained down across the nation of Ukraine. This is 22-year-old Orysya Melnyk’s story of escaping Kyiv, as told to and translated by her sister, Uliana King. They are daughters of Anatolyy Melnyk, pastor of House of the Gospel in Khmelnytsky, Ukraine.

For me, it all started at six in the morning on Thursday 24 February, when I somehow woke up without an alarm clock. I saw a light in the hallway and went out to see why it was on. I and two other girls my age were renting an apartment, and one of them was fully dressed and busy packing things.

When I expressed my surprise by her early rise, she simply said, War! Not fully understanding the scale of it all, I began my usual morning routine. After a couple of hours I began reading the news. It was shocking. Not only had Russian troops come to ‘save’ the Ukrainian East, but they were bombing Kyiv and other major cities.

When my other flatmate woke up, we tried to figure out what to do next. The sirens kept going off all morning. Shots were heard every ten minutes. When we went outside, we felt like we were at a train station, only in the open air. Everyone had a suitcase, a backpack.

Some had a child in their arms. There was a lot of noise from the suitcase wheels and people running around. There were dozens of people queueing at the ATMs. There were even longer queues at grocery stores that stretched for several streets.

Daily shelling

On the next day only chocolate, junk food, and fizzy drinks were available in the shops. Having managed to buy cheese and apples, we had to use some pre-war stocks for food. My emotional state was very unstable. At first I felt like I was watching a war movie with 3D effects. A few minutes after reading a warning about potential bombings in the news, I heard explosions in real life.

During the first few days of war I was in a constant state of shock and horror. We looked at people on the street with suspicion; our eyes began to see hostile signs in everything. Due to our proximity to Irpin, Bucha, and Hostomel – the towns near Kyiv which the Russian army desperately wanted to capture – the sound of fighting could be clearly heard around the clock.

The shelling sounded especially scary at night. It can be compared to thunder, but much louder, longer, and more sudden. On the fourth day of the war, it became a routine for us to wake up at 4 a.m. from the sound of shelling. Sirens were also going off and every day brought new deaths and injuries.

Prayer messages

The only consolation for me then was reading the Bible. I don’t know why, but praying in my own words was very difficult. Some girls from the church created a prayer group and since we couldn’t have an online prayer meeting, we recorded prayer voice messages. We made several attempts to leave Kyiv, but due to lack of transport (because the subway was used as a bomb shelter), we couldn’t get to the evacuation points.

Another reason was that the street that led to the train station was very dangerous as several cars were fired at when people were trying to flee. On the sixth day of the war, we realised that it was also impossible to stay in Kyiv with dwindling life necessities (such as food and drinking water). At that time we had little money, due to the temporary failure of state pay systems.

Escape

Then God provided a volunteer from Belgium who was sent into our lives to offer us refuge. On a Tuesday at 6 p.m., two hours before the curfew, we prayed and set off to the train station. We would have to walk seven miles to the station.

After 40 minutes of running, we realised that we did not have time to avoid the curfew, and there was therefore a danger of being shot. (Everyone on the street between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. would be considered a separatist saboteur who didn’t know the rules and could be shot if they didn’t have a permit to be outside.)

We prayed again and started to wave to the cars. A couple of men from the Territorial Defence were very kind and picked us up and drove us to the train station. We escaped just in time as on the next day the train station was partially shelled.

There were hundreds of people at the station trying to get on any train, preferably not in the direction of the east. No one announced the exact time that trains would depart, and the lights were turned off for safety.

After an hour of searching, and thanks to God’s guidance, we were able to board the train to Lviv, and from there cross the border into Poland. Praise be to God, who turns even evil deeds into good for his glory! One wicked act can give birth to hundreds of good deeds.

The whole world has risen to help Ukraine in such a difficult time, and in these sacrificial deeds the Lord is glorified. Thank you all for your prayers!

Orysya Melnyk, daughter of Anatolyy Melnyk, pastor of House of the Gospel in Khmelnytsky, Ukraine

Orysya Melnyk
Orysya Melnyk, daughter of Anatolyy Melnyk, pastor of House of the Gospel in Khmelnytsky, Ukraine.
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