Pavel’s Journey to Safety: A Story of loss, love, sacrifice and resilience

by | Feb 19, 2023 | Emergency Response, Ukraine

The World Hope International team recently met Pavel*, a 40-year-old male refugee from Ukraine while on a distribution mission in the northern region of Moldova. Pavel found shelter and safety there, after an unimaginable ordeal. Despite what he endured, he had a contagious laugh and was thrilled to have guests visit with him. As we exchanged introductions and pleasantries about the winter weather, he invited us to sit down in the apartment’s living room that he now shares with long lost relatives of his wife.
He began by telling us how he escaped the war in Ukraine and the exceedingly long journey he took to get to where we met him. Pavel elaborated on how he avoided Russian checkpoints. In his quest to reunite with his wife, he found himself taking the longest possible route: traveling north to Belarus, crossing into Poland and then on to Romania. He told us stories of sharing his food with the Ukrainian soldiers that he came across while traveling through Belarus.
When asked why he chose to not remain in Poland, he was overcome with emotion. His voice started to tremble, and in a soft voice he recounted his story:  About a month before Russia invaded Ukraine, Pavel received a cancer diagnosis, which he described as a wake-up call. He and his wife desired to use this time to reset and travel before beginning his cancer treatment. Pavel never got into the details of his diagnosis, but his face lit up when reminiscing how they sold everything: their house, belongings, even their car, with each of them taking sabbaticals from work, to embark on a 6-month trip across Ukraine. When the war broke out, they were in Crimea, a region illegally annexed by Russia after the 2014 conflict.

By May 2022, they knew the situation in Ukraine was untenable. They decided he would stay behind as he needed to obtain an exemption from mandatory military service due to his health condition. His wife would journey to Romania and wait to be reunited with him there.

The long-awaited reunion never happened. As he was on his way to Kyiv to take the necessary steps to obtain an exemption, he received word that his wife was killed in an airstrike as she journeyed towards Romania. Overwhelmed by his grief, he was unable to share more.

Sunflower in field of wheat
Pavel is now on a waiting list to begin oncology treatment in another city more than 100 miles away. His wife’s relatives here are elderly, and they are barely surviving. World Hope’s contact is the advisor to the mayor of the city.  He promised Pavel that he would personally take him to all his treatments once an opening becomes available. The distribution team left shortly after as we were due to drop off supplies to a Ukrainian woman whose only remaining family, her two boys, were left behind in Ukraine to fight.
Refugee Camp
Moldova has registered over 721,000 border crossings from Ukraine since February 2021, with more than 98,000 individual refugees from Ukraine staying in Moldova. This number jumped from 73,208 refugees in October 2022, signaling that refugees from Ukraine are seeking relief from the harsh winter. Refugees pursue safety in north Moldova and in the southeast of the country, with the vast majority of refugees seeking shelter and support in Moldova’s capital city of Chisinau.
Pavel’s story exemplifies the real horrors of the ongoing war inflicted upon Ukrainian citizens who were already experiencing life-altering events. Though unique, Pavel’s story is also the story of millions of his fellow Ukrainians. His is a story of great loss, and even greater resilience:  a story of starting over in a new country whilst dreaming of the day you will return home, to mourn and bury your loved ones, while also experiencing the hope of beginning again.
Silvia Roscot

Silvia Roscot

Resource Development Director-Ukraine Crisis

World Hope International
*(Name and images has been changed to protect identity) 

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