33 orphans from a home in Kiev have now arrived safely at a Methodist facility in Sibiu, Romania. Their journey sheds an oppressive light on how vulnerable the refugees are.
At the end of last week, the first orphans from a home in Kiev had arrived at the border of Romania. The UMC in Romania had provided money for their escape. Full of joy, those responsible reported on Facebook: "33 orphans who fled from Kiev crossed the border today accompanied by three caregivers! In Sibiu they will be received by our colleagues Cristi and Thomas, coordinators of Phoneo Sibiu, and taken to safety."
What they didn't know was that the children's journey would take a dramatic turn. For they were anything but safe. What transpired in the 48 hours following this news is recounted by Methodist pastor Cristian Istrate in a Facebook post dated March 7, 2022.
The children had been accompanied to the border by a "guide". The guide was exhausted after the long journey and therefore commissioned a randomly selected transport company to bring the children and their companions to the Methodist institution in Sibiu. However, this was a decision with serious consequences. "This vehicle was driven by a driver who harbored malicious intentions toward the children," writes Rev. Istrate. The driver, he says, told the people accompanying the children tall tales about the Methodist facility, leading them to believe that the children were not safe there. Instead of letting the children off in Sibiu, he therefore took them back to the Ukrainian border.
The people in charge in Sibiu became suspicious when the children did not arrive. They alerted authorities and learned that the children were to be taken to Italy by an unknown person. "We were perplexed and anxious," writes Father Istrate, "because Italy is a known place for human trafficking." They immediately took action. "We alerted the Ukrainian consulate in Romania, which banned the bus from leaving the country!"
So eventually the children did arrive at their original destination. There, the children were greeted with an envelope that read, "You are a superhero." Since the employees did not speak Ukrainian, those responsible organized translators. "The children wanted to be held in the arms of our team," says Istrate, describing the scenes upon arrival. "Some were in shock and they wept. But they knew they had escaped the bombs. Now they were safe."
The head of the Ukrainian orphanage, who was traveling on the bus, had also realized by then that she had been misled. "She received emotional assistance from us. We will bring a Ukrainian-speaking psychologist to help her get over the trauma of the last few weeks and this experience in especially," writes Father Istrate.
17 other children could not find a place on the first bus. They are still with caregivers in Kiev. "For them, we have made a payment to support the costs so they can arrive safely," the leaders write in their first post. "No cost is too high to save these lives!" However, in the meantime, the military situation around Kiev has drastically escalated
In the 48 hours of uncertainty, they did not sleep well, Istrate admits in his account. He is grateful for the group of people with whom he was able to cope with this dangerous situation. "Next to me was a team of 'superheroes' created from the relationships we formed to help these children," he writes. "Everything has been made possible through the efforts of a team. God is great and we give Him all the glory for this story with a happy ending!"
Source: Cristian Istrate, Sibiu / Sigmar Friedrich, Zurich