Peterson in Gdansk, Poland with refugees
By Sarah Nigbor
Ellsworth High School alumna and mis – sionary Leann Peterson has been in Gdansk, Poland, for six weeks now, where she is help – ing refugees from Ukraine, the country she has called home for 19 years. As the war with Russia enters its third month, Peterson said refugees and those left behind in Ukraine are in dire need of donations. "We are into the third month of the war," Peterson said. "The needs are increasing and the donations are decreasing, simply because people have gotten used to hearing about the war." Peterson has served as a church leader, preacher, evangelist and teacher with True Hope, a division of Fire International Inc. for close to two decades. She is helping about 70 women and children from her church and ministry who have been evacuated from Ukraine, but their church has helped count – less women and children evacuate from their home city, Krivoy Rog. They quit counting at 700 evacuees, Peterson said. Many have been sent to Gdansk, where she is currently stationed. "Gdansk is a beautiful city filled with his
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refugees, but those left behind in Krivoy Rog, Ukraine, her home city. Photo courtesy of Leann Peterson Ukraine Update
tory. This is where World War II began on Sept. 1, 1939,” Peterson said. “Everywhere you look there are Polish and Ukrainian flags flying together in unity. The Polish people have been incredibly welcoming, helpful and kind to the roughly 3 million Ukrainian refugees currently living in Poland. Because of the brutality Poland experienced during WWII, they are very compassionate and want to help stop this terrible war that is happening in Ukraine today.”
Peterson’s church has been supporting its refugee families by paying for rent, utilities, food, diapers and necessities with the donations received for Ukraine relief. Peterson said every refugee initially received about $80 from the Polish government (a one-time gift), and mothers may soon start receiving $100 per month for each child. While not enough to survive on, it will help, she said.
“Single women will not receive any more support other than the initial $80,” Peterson said. “There are also still a few donation centers open in Poland, where Ukrainians can receive some free food and clothing, but those donation centers are beginning to shut down as there are not as many things being donated any longer.”
The True Hope team in Krivoy Rog is also feeding countless people each week, while providing medicine and diapers. Peterson calls their work invaluable, as many would go hungry or not have all they need to survive.
“In Krivoy Rog, the air raid sirens will sometimes go ou 10 to 12 times a day, or on a good day, maybe three or four times,” Peterson said. “But as the Russians attempt to inch closer, there are more sirens and the levels of stress and worry in the city have gone up.
“But, as Church of Truth continues to hold services with a full sanctuary, the message is the same – we will pray and ask God to intervene to stop this war and we will place all our trust in Jesus – He is our only hope! We continue to be a light shining in the darkness.”
Supplies are also being driven into Krivoy Rog, which is located in central Ukraine, from Poland and western Ukraine. As soon as supplies such as food, medicine, clothing, bedding, shoes and hygiene products arrive, they are handed out to those in need.
“The needs are increasing as more and more people do not have the means to provide for themselves due to rising prices and the loss of work and income,” Peterson said. “Our True Hope team provides aid to the Ukrainian army protecting our city, people in our city, special needs homes, and they have been able to deliver to some of the hardest hit areas that are currently under attack.”
The True Hope team has also been helping those who are fleeing the fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine. Krivoy Rog contin- ues to see a flow of refugees/displaced peo ple. The team houses them in their center, feeds them, treats them medically if needed, provides fresh clothing and helps them to find a place to stay or to flee further West. There are already countless thousands that the team has helped. When the numbers got into the thousands, they quit keeping track.
“The war front now looms just on the border of our city of Krivoy Rog,” Peterson said. "The Russians have been held ou for almost a month now, but with the focus of the war having shifted to the south and east, the troops have been increasing near Krivoy Rog. We continue to pray for safety for our friends and families, and pray that God will bring about an end to this war and that there will be peace in Ukraine!”
The past six weeks have also been filled with finding housing for refugee women and children in Poland, Peterson said. They eventually found places for all their church’s refugee families to stay, thanks to “divine connections.” She has also been helping refugees complete paperwork and get documents processed. They are working with a local Polish church to minister to Ukrainians, as well as holding Ukrainian church services. “Above all that, I am a listening ear as people need to share their stories, be heard, and prayed for,” Peterson said. “So many have come from weeks of living in bomb shelters and some have lost their homes. It’s heartbreaking! We all continue to pray this war will end soon! It’s been more than 60 days now of war, much too long. But everyone said Ukraine wouldn’t last 2-3 days, and here we are entering our third month of war. Ukrainians are strong and resilient people.”
True Hope is still in need of finances as less people are making free donations and the cost of food is going up. If you would like to help support those suuering because of this war, go to truehopeukraine.com or fire-inter national.org All donations go directly to meet the needs of those on the ground in Ukraine and to support Ukrainian refugees.
Ellsworth native Leann Peterson (far left) with a group of refugees from her church. Many are now living in Poland, where she has helped them find housing. Photo courtesy of Leann Peterson
Ukrainians are strong and resilient, Leann Peterson says. Women and children have fled to Poland for sanctuary, where Peterson and her team have helped them to secure housing. Photo courtesy of Leann Peterson
Members of the True Hope team sort through donations for Ukrainians. Photo courtesy of Leann Peterson
Members of the True Hope team are helping in any way they can, by providing food, clothing, medicine and shelter to Ukrainians in need. Photo courtesy of Leann Peterson