From the very first days of the war, OM were present at the most frequented border crossing from Ukraine. At the place where refugees wait to cross into Moldova we could set up a tent, offering warm meals, drinks, blankets, hygiene products, as well as information or the chance for conversation and prayer.

A quick response 

The voice of a friend breaking with a mixture of emotion and exhaustion as he tells you about his first visit to the border; refugees staring with empty eyes, too traumatised to speak; the last embrace as a father says goodbye to his wife and children, before sending them across the border, while having to turn back himself…

The first personal impressions of war in a neighbouring country are hard to describe and hard to forget.

During the first days of war, thousands of refugees were pouring into Moldova, many having children with them. They waited for hours, some even days, to be able to cross  the border. Tens of thousands were still on the way or waiting on the Ukrainian side. There was a severe lack of food, blankets, baby food, nappies, hygiene articles or medicine.

The need was huge - but so was the response of the Moldovan people, who welcomed refugees at their borders, offered transport, provided food or helped to find temporary housing.

“I’ve never been so proud to be a Moldovan as I am today,” our OM leader Eugen shared at that time, after witnessing people from all over the country jumping to help those fleeing Ukraine.

In collaboration with local churches, we visited the border several times during these first days, bringing food, blankets, nappies or other sanitary products, as well as warm meals, which a nearby church prepared. After a few days, we could set up a tent on the Ukrainian side of the border, turning our visits into a continuous presence at the border.

We were offered a good spot, right next to the line of people waiting to get across on foot - and it did not take long for the whole line to shift to go right through our tent. As temperatures were low and there had been slight snowfall, people were especially thankful to spend part of their wait in a warm and sheltered place, besides being offered warm food, tea, blankets or sanitary products, as well as information and directions.


Serving at the tent was often heart-breaking, especially watching men say goodbye to their families, but we also saw a lot of gratitude and had some encouraging encounters.

One day a Ukrainian teenage boy was among those standing in line. Instead of taking a blanket and simply awaiting his turn to cross the border, he put on a volunteer’s vest and joined us in handing out food and other aid, serving with us for the whole night, at minus 8°C.

Later, when he had safely arrived in Bucharest (Romania), he sent us a message to let us know how he was and to thank us for having given him the opportunity to serve his own people in their need.

While for many of those arriving at the border, our ministry was mainly one of giving immediate relief to exhaustion, hunger, cold and fear, we also saw how important it could be for someone to not feel a helpless victim but be able to do something about the situation around him.

Growing desperation 

After the first few weeks, the number of refugees at the border grew less - but those who came then were more desperate and more traumatised. While the first wave had included many who had the means to depart more easily or who had connections in other European countries, there soon seemed to be very few left who drove their own cars or who fled ‘only’ from the threat of war drawing near.

Most of the newer arrivals were evacuated in buses and dropped off at the border. They had truly experienced war. They had seen their homes destroyed. They had helplessly watched as food and resources ran out. They had fled in fear and haste. They had passed destruction and dead bodies on their way. They arrived at the border with no money, no idea where they were heading and no place to return to.

“It’s heart-breaking to see those who arrive at the border and break down in tears,” one of our team members said at that time - tears because of the terror they had experienced, tears because they finally felt safe, tears because of dear ones they had lost or didn’t know if they’d see again.

They didn’t know where they would go or even where they could spend the next night; they only knew what they had left behind - and that in the future they might not have anything to return to. Relieved that they had made it so far, yet grieved and afraid for all they had left. Burdened more by pain, bewilderment and dread than by the few possessions they could carry with them.

At that period, our tent was less busy than at the start, but it was even more important to not only meet immediate physical needs, but to also be able to offer a listening ear and prayer.

The solace of prayer 

OM worker Amanda remembers an old lady she met one day at the border: “Her wrinkled hand trembled as she held her tea and I poured sugar to stir. She was too nervous to eat. It was just her and her granddaughter, trying to cross the border together - full of fear that her granddaughter wouldn’t be able to cross, due to her documents just being copies, not originals.”

Added to the trauma of what they were fleeing from, many were anxious about whether they would be allowed over the border. That same day, Amanda also met a brother and sister arriving together: They had been told the brother would not be allowed to leave Ukraine, being older than 18, whereas if he stayed, his sister might not pass due to being under 16 without a guardian.

“With each of these families we listened and showed care,” Amanda said, “and when we asked if we could pray for them, their eyes opened up with great appreciation and a glimmer of hope. We prayed that God would comfort them, lead them, protect them, open up the borders to them and help them find a place of refuge. Praise the Lord that in the end God did open the border to all these families!”

There are no words that can either describe or alleviate what all these people have gone through, but we trust that our response of prayer and practical love did help to bring some solace.

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