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Photo essay: United Methodists stand with Ukraine (UM News)

As soon as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 2022, Ukrainian refugees — mostly women and children — began arriving in neighboring countries. Some by train, some in cars with bullet holes.

“We didn’t know where we were going; we just went west,” said Anna, a refugee from Kyiv staying at a United Methodist retreat center in the Czech Republic.

United Methodists in Eastern Europe have been welcoming refugees since the beginning. Many offer shelter and basic daily necessities, in many cases hosting the refugees in their own homes. Others arrange to transport food and medical supplies back into Ukraine for those who cannot leave, and help refugees acquire legal documents that they may have left behind or lost while fleeing their homes. As the conflict drags on and more long-term needs arise, churches help children with school and help their parents find more permanent housing and jobs. When asked, the response is always that they will help as long as necessary.

In late May, a team from United Methodist News, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries visited church refugee ministries in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and western Ukraine to share stories of the United Methodist presence in the wake of such tragedy and ongoing need.

The Rev. Jana Krizova, who helps coordinate refugee ministries for the annual conference of The United Methodist Church in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, said this ministry happened naturally.

“It’s in the Methodist DNA,” she said. “You see need and do something about it.”