My "Refugee" Journal

At a Loss . . .

Today they bombed the largest children’s hospital in Ukraine, Okhmadyt, a state-of-the-art facility known even beyond the borders of this country. 

I say “this country,” because I’m writing from Ukraine. We arrived here in Ternopil last night with our three youngest kids. The power was off—a scheduled blackout, a result of Russia’s relentless attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. We put the kids to bed by flashlight. Before retiring, I checked the official Telegram channel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, a nightly habit when we are here. 

In almost two and a half years of war, Ternopil has only been hit three times, but the air-raid sirens go off routinely. In this Western Ukrainian city, many alerts (most?) are triggered by the takeoff of Russian aircraft capable of launching long-range missiles. According to my brother-in-law who lives here, these types of alerts are not really a cause for concern in Ternopil. Most locals ignore them. 

However, the official Telegram channel sometimes predicts real threats before the sirens sound—which is why I consult it as part of my bedtime routine. When I went to bed last night after 1:00 a.m., it said Russian missiles were expected to enter Ukrainian airspace after 2:00 a.m. The post concluded: Do not ignore the sirens. Take shelter.

The sirens awakened me shortly before 3:00 a.m. 

My first feeling was urgency. I needed to do something—quickly. But what? My thoughts were sluggish, the gears of my mind still clogged with sleep. 

Those are sirens.

Got to get everyone into the hallway. 

George is still sleeping. 

Need to wake him. 


“Wha—?” he mumbled.


“Okay.” He didn’t move.



“Get up!”



“Oh, I was . . . um, I was trying to . . .” He shook himself. “What are we supposed to do?”

“Kitchen. Balcony. Mattress. Hallway.” My thoughts were rattling around in my head.


I tried again. “Mattress on the kitchen balcony. Get it and bring it to the hallway.”

I need to get the kids.

Wait, I should check to see what’s triggering the siren.

No, I should get the kids first, then check.

No, maybe it’s not worth disturbing them.

Where’s my phone?

No. Kids first, check second.

The kids had all asked to make beds on the floor with blankets—that way, in the event of an air-raid alert, I could simply pull them into the hallway without having to wake them. Soon I had all of us crowded into the short section of hallway where the walls were unbroken by doorways. Ukrainians call this the “two-wall rule,” the goal being to have two walls between you and any potential point of impact. After twenty-eight months of living with frequent air-raid alerts, for the most part, no one I know bothers to go to the underground shelters anymore. It’s too disruptive to your sleep and your daily routine. 

George went back to sleep almost immediately, but between him and our eleven-year-old, there wasn’t enough room for me to lie down on the twin mattress we’d placed on the hallway floor. That was okay, because I’ve never been able to sleep during an air alert. The sirens only sound for a minute or so, but I can’t relax until they announce the all-clear. Instead of sleeping, I monitored the Air Force Telegram channel, tracking the progress of the rockets heading towards various parts of Ukraine. None were coming our direction.

The all-clear sounded shortly before 4 a.m. George and I went back to bed, leaving the kids sleeping in the hallway. I snuggled under the covers, allowing my exhaustion to immobilize me. Sleep would claim me any minute. 

But it didn’t. 

When the sirens started again at 7:20 a.m., I had the impression of not having slept at all, except for a short spell of fitful dozing. This alert was triggered by the takeoff of Russian military aircraft. It lasted less than thirty minutes. I contemplated the psychological impact of Russia’s tactics. Disrupt the nightly sleep of an entire nation with deadly attacks, then heckle them throughout the day with threats and posturing.

George and the kids left to meet people for breakfast. Dizzy with fatigue, I opted to stay behind. Surely now I would sleep. 

I was just dozing off when the sirens started again at 9:48 a.m. I moaned. 

I should move to the hallway.

It’s probably nothing serious.

I should move.

Not yet.

Too tired . . .

I forced one eye open and checked the Air Force Telegram channel. This wasn’t threats and posturing. There were rockets in the air above Ukraine again! They were headed all over the place. Thankfully, none were coming our way.

I noted activity on the group chat for our former church-planting team. The war scattered us, but we still maintain contact. Three of them are in Kyiv right now. They reported loud explosions and plumes of smoke rising from multiple locations across the city. 

The images are heart-rending.

In Ternopil, the air alert was cancelled at 11:36 a.m. 

Then the reports started coming in. Over forty missiles hit six different cities. The targets were apartment buildings, civilian infrastructure, and a children’s hospital.

The images are heart-rending. A woman comforting a bloodied child. Bald children sitting in chairs along the edge of a parking lot, still attached to their wheeled chemo machines. In one video, lines of people pass chunks of rubble hand to hand, bucket-brigade style, to clear a massive mound and reach survivors. Doctors in blood-soaked scrubs work frantically beside normal people who arrived to help before official rescue workers could make it to the scene.

Pray for an end to this war.

A few hours later, while these efforts are still underway, they hit another Kyiv hospital.

I have no words left to tell you how I feel. 

Pray for Ukraine.

Pray for an end to this war.

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8 replies on “At a Loss . . .”

Dear Sharon,
When I heard today the Children’s Hospital was attacked, I immediately thought of you, your family, and the others who had come for the children’s camp. I am sorry you had to go through this again. I am sorry so many people are suffering from this war. I am praying for you and that this evil war will end soon.

Thank you, Angie. Thankfully, the children’s camp was unaffected. It very far from Kyiv. In fact, being at camp meant kids from Kyiv weren’t in the capital when this latest attack happened.

I am praying for Ukraine for this war to end! So many deaths, destruction and exhaustion physically, mentally and spiritually. We do not fight against man but powers of darkness and it is demonic. May our God deliver Ukraine from this intolerable madness. May He protect you and your family and all the people of Ukraine.

Just today I was complaining about the things I am dealing with. Then I see this post in my email. I am then reminded of how minor my afflictions. I am praying for everyone’s strength and courage, that the war will cease, that salvation will come to the heart of Putin and the soldiers who proceed with orders to kill innocent people and I am praying for the families who have lost love ones. I could never imagine how much this is taking a toll on the mental. Thankfully every care can be laid at the feet of Jesus because He cares.

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