After a year and a half of war in Ukraine, it is no secret that Ukraine has faced horrendous pain and destruction as a country. Behind the headlines detailing congressional funding, militaries battling for territory, and international politics, there is a more pressing matter: the families whose lives are being destroyed by this horrific war.
“Although you may see it on TV, it doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation,” said Maryna Viunyk. “People don’t truly understand it because they were not there. If it didn’t happen to me, I wouldn’t understand how terrible it is.”
February 24, 2022, In Mariupol, Ukraine, life was forever altered for hundreds of thousands of families– the start of a series of events that would devastate the futures of
Mariupol’s peace was taken when Russian forces bombarded their city. For weeks, not a minute of silence was heard. Missiles, bombs, and rockets rained from Mariupol’s skies, and relentless shelling echoed through the streets.
On March 10, 2022, everything changed for the Viunyk family when a Russian rocket struck Serhii’s parent’s house.
Around 10 a.m., Serhii heard the sound of jet planes roaring towards the house.
“Lie down on the floor!” he shouted to his daughters, who were playing in the other room.
In seconds, the home they found refuge in was a burning pile of rubble, suffocating and crushing them from above. The bricks and concrete blocks they laid under made it impossible for them to move on their own. They could barely breathe. Dust and debris entered their lungs. Serhii could smell the fire burning everything in its path.
“I realized at that moment we were going to die a terrible death. I wanted only one thing: to lose consciousness so I wouldn’t feel the pain of being burned alive.”
After the dust settled, Serhii heard screams from neighbors attempting to dig them out from under the debris. He shouted, allowing the bystanders to locate him and dig him out. He knew Maryna was next to him, so he began digging.
He took in the scene before him as he shoved the ruins aside. The entire yard was engulfed in flames; nothing of the house was left. The blast had completely wiped it out.
With no time to regain their bearings, Serhii and Maryna began locating their daughters. They rushed over to the approximate place where the children were playing. After shuffling some rubble around, they heard Masha scream in pain. Once she was freed, it was clear she was severely injured. Her arm dangled at her side as she clutched it and cried.
They began dismantling the rubble where they suspected Lena to be, but there was no screaming in pain to help find her this time. There was no sound at all.
As the family worked to uncover Lena, they spotted Serhii’s mother in the midst of flames. The neighbors hurried to collect water, which they mainly got from the sewer since the city's water supply was cut off eight days prior. They put on wet clothes so they could get closer to the flames to help rescue Serhii’s mother.
Finally, the Viunyk’s unearthed Lena from the crushing weight of the demolished house. Although little time had passed, Lena was not breathing, blue, and showing no signs of life. Serhii immediately began CPR.
After performing CPR, Serhii and Maryna had to do what no parent should ever endure: leave their young deceased daughter behind and find their way to safety for themselves and Masha.
“Thank God we came across kind, good, sympathetic people along the way who helped us overcome this difficult path, restore documents, and move on,” said Maryna.
BeHumanKindness met the Viunyk family in a large refugee camp in Poland late one night in November 2022 with our mission group from Christ Chapel Bible Church. They had been living there for four months, waiting for new birth certificates, passports, and all the essential documents needed to start their life again in a new country.
After hearing their story and praying over them, BeHumanKindness immediately moved them to our long-term refuge house, where we could help get them new clothes, shoes, and basic living essentials they had gone without for months. Masha was able to live with other children and families who had experienced many of the same horrific things.
It allowed them the time they needed to grieve the loss of their daughter while also being surrounded by a community of others who had been through very similar situations. They made the best decision for their family throughout this time: it was time to get to the United States.
Finally, in February 2023, the Viunyk’s had their documents and were ready to travel to the USA through the Uniting for Ukraine program.
Jeff and Sue Cole, members of Christ Chapel Baptist Church and supporters of BeHumanKindness, were moved by the Viunyk’s story and quickly jumped into action, getting them into the United States and getting them settled into their new beginning.
Since arriving in Fort Worth, the Viunyk’s have had their fair share of challenges, but they kept their heads up and pushed through, knowing they have the love and support of a strong community behind them. “There are good, kind, sympathetic, and understanding people in the world who can change their fate by helping those who really need it. Our sponsors have led us forward every single step of the way. We are forever grateful.”