Ukrainian pastor Gennady Mokhnenko, on the front lines of the war, has witnessed the worst the war has had to offer.
A special visitor a long way from home was at an Iowa Park church Wednesday night to share the devastation and heartbreak his home country is suffering.
Since the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine, millions of refugees have been placed in different parts of the world.
“Last, from February all time, I was front line, directly front line, and I feel myself little bit crazy now in short United States because I feel myself, somebody get me out from hell and sent me to paradise,” Pastor Gennady Mokhnenko said.
Since Russia launched a military invasion into Ukraine, it has caused nearly 3,000 civilian deaths and displaced more than seven million people.
“It’s not fighting about gas, it’s not fighting about land, it’s not fighting about different kind of language, this is the fighting about freedom because my country Ukraine said goodbye from Soviet Union 30 years ago and try to build freedom country,” Mokhnenko said. “Russia, they build prison inside their country, they want to get us inside their prison – we say no. This is real, more deeply, this is the battle of freedom.”
In the first few days of the war, Pastor Gennady evacuated children and Mariupol residents.
“We evacuate my orphanage, we evacuate many adopted families from my church, but we cannot evacuate all of them,” Mokhnenko said.
With help of others, more than a thousand people were brought to safety, but his life was changed when he ran out of time to save one of his daughters.
“The neighbors of my daughter told me how they found a piece of her body, a piece of her body, and put it on the grave right there, nearly home, because all my city transformed to a cemetery everywhere, graves everywhere,” Mokhnenko said.
The death of his daughter is something Mokhnenko will never forget, but he said his faith is what keeps him standing.
“I can’t have chance to evacuate her, I can’t have chance, I can’t do it,” Mokhnenko said. “You need shelter. Christian faith is strong shelter through go all storms.”
“Home by home, district by district, they destroyed all city, they killed… thousands of people, and we are all very angry,” Mokhnenko said. “We are fighting; I stay in front line. I’m a Chaplin; I’m a pastor. I love people, I help people, I serve for people through all my life.”