Ukraine: “How can we just stand and do nothing?”

A refugee family helped by MWB provides a home to a family fleeing the invasion

When a Ukrainian family living in Romania heard of Russia’s invasion they wanted to help in any way they could.

On Sunday, February 27th, Oleksandr Akulai decided to hire a van and drive to the Ukrainian border. He gave three families a ride back to Arges county, Romania, where his family lives and offered accommodation and meals to one of the families, while their local church is caring for the other two.

Oleksandr said, “How can we just stand and do nothing? We were in the same situation a few years ago.”

In 2014, the Akulai family joined over a million people who fled eastern Ukraine when violent conflict broke out, losing their homes, jobs, community, and everything they had known.

Oleksandr, 39, and his wife Ana, 35, had a toddler and baby at the time the conflict broke out. They left behind a beautiful home they had just finished building, taking only two bags of clothes with them – and started life all over again in Arges county, Romania.

Oleksandr said, “The world news reported only a tiny fraction of what was really going on in Ukraine back then. Thousands have died, and it was total chaos. We never expected to leave our country, but the circumstances compelled us.”

Despite not knowing anyone there, they decided to seek refuge in Romania.

They ended up in Ramnicu Valcea, a town in central-south Romania. For almost a year and a half, this town became their home and the birthplace of their baby girl, Estera, now six years old. For many months, their only possessions were the two bags of clothes they brought with them from Ukraine. During that whole time, they didn’t yet have the immigration papers they needed, and they were unsettled and unsure of what the future held.

Ana said, “Everything was so uncertain. I remember constantly wondering how long we were going to stay in one place. I was always prepared for another move, as we didn’t have a place of our own. I would wash our clothes and put them back in the bags we brought with us so that we were ready to leave if the situation called for it.”

I decided to go back to Ukraine and sell everything we owned.


Oleksandr shared, “After a year and a half, I decided to go back to Ukraine and sell everything we owned, hoping we would have enough to buy a house in Romania. Ana, my wife, didn’t want to stay behind with the children without me, so we all went home. We did get to sell everything, but we were stuck there for seven months because of visa issues.”

Some Christians in Romania heard about the Akulais’ situation and managed to secure a job for Oleksander. This gave the family the chance to return to Romania on a work visa. Later, because their grandparents were from Bessarabia, the family was granted citizenship, and their stay in the country became official.

Oleksander said, “Back home I was a mechanic and a forest guard, and my wife was a French and English teacher. We both brought in a good income. After our stay here in Romania became official, I started working in making tin roofs and my wife decided to stay home with the children. We started everything from zero and the income was just enough to get by. The church in Pitesti, the city we moved to, let us stay for free in the church apartment for the next two years.”

Not long afterwards, the Akulais were enrolled in Mission Without Borders’ family sponsorship programme after their friends told Daniel, a staff member in the area, about their struggles with poverty.

Daniel said, “Oleksander already had problems with his back, and one day, as he was working, he heard his spine crack and he started experiencing a lot of pain. He wasn’t able to move or work for the next six months. I met the family for the first time during that time. Oleksander was not even able to shake my hand.”

Although he still needs surgery, after some medical treatment Oleksandr was up again and tirelessly working to improve life for his family. With the money they received from selling their house, car and other belongings in Ukraine, they bought a small piece of land on the outskirts of Pitesti, and began to build a house.

Ana said, “It's hard to be away from everyone we love, and we pray every day for their protection. We only did this for our children.”

Three and a half years ago, the Akulai family moved into the house they were hard at work building. While the walls of the house were finished, much of the interior was not, and when winter came, they had to put plastic sheeting in the windows and curtains over the uninsulated walls to keep the heat in.

To heat the kitchen, they used a small stove that emitted a lot of smoke. Three electric heaters were used in one bedroom where everyone slept, and the toilet was outside.

There were lots of times that winter when we had to sleep with our coats on and use every blanket we owned .


Ana said, “There were lots of times that winter when we had to sleep with our coats on and use every blanket we owned as it was so cold. It’s been a tough time, but we were happy to have our own place.”

For many months the family didn’t have running water. Ana said, “Washing laundry was the hardest thing, especially during the winter. For every wash load I would need at least 15 buckets of water that I had to carry home, walking for a few kilometres. I did that every day after taking the children to kindergarten and school or when collecting them.”

In the meantime, our ongoing support of the family meant that they were supplied with furniture, clothing, bedlinen, blankets, pillows, food, hygiene supplies and school supplies. The children are involved in all the Christian events that we run, and the older ones went along to summer camp, which they loved because the family can’t afford to take them on holiday.

To help the family establish themselves, Mission Without Borders provided the tools and equipment Oleksandr needed to open a car workshop in their home. He is a skilled mechanic, and now he fixes cars for people in the community and makes enough money to support his family. He is extremely happy he gets to do something he loves and is good at – and at the same time, be close to his family.

Oleksandr said, “We can’t thank MWB enough for the help we’ve received over the years. Every piece of furniture, every item of clothing, every food product has helped us get to where we are today. Their support freed us up to invest in construction materials to slowly finish our house.

“Oh, and there are no words to express the gratitude we feel for giving me the chance to have my own little workshop, which allows me to provide for my family, be close to them and be involved in my children’s lives and education. Be blessed!”

Life seems to have turned into the right direction for the Akulai family. There is still plenty of work to be done on the house before it is finished, but running water and gas are now installed. Ana works hard in the home, making the most of anything they receive or buy, and the children are doing well at school. The family’s faith is stronger and their hopes for the future are big. They love and trust God even more than ever.

God has been so good to us and he has cared for us in miraculous ways.


Ana and Oleksandr said, “God has been so good to us and he has cared for us in miraculous ways. Giving our hearts to Jesus was the best decision we’ve ever made. Our parents don’t know God and even opposed our decision to get baptized. You are doing an amazing job in coming alongside people in need and helping them overcome their circumstances. You did it for us and we thank you. Please never think your work is just a job. Do it happily and think of it as an amazing opportunity to invest in God’s kingdom.”

Daniel said, “No matter the obstacles or challenges, the Akulais have continued to press on. Their creativity in handling all the resources we made available for them has been remarkable. Their hard work has paid off, making them prosper. They have a beautiful family and they’re a role model for many others in the community and church. They are some of our heroes and I have always been honoured to serve them.”  

Now it’s Ana and Oleksandr’s chance to help refugee families in need. They are thankful they are in a position to help and they know just how these families feel.

Oleksandr said, “We ourselves have been helped in such a wonderful way by Mission Without Borders and I think it’s time for us to help others.

“We’ll do our best to support this family staying with us – the mother is pregnant and has two more children. We pray and I know that God will never leave us – he will continue to bless us just as he has done up until now.”

150 000

The estimated number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries each day.

This is now the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

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