Since the start of the Russian invasion, an estimated 230,000 refugees have crossed the border from Ukraine to Moldova to date, with 120,000 planning to remain in the country. Most refugees are entering through the southern tip close to the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe with a population of only 2.6 million, making it the country with the most refugees per-capita. One in eight children is now a refugee in Moldova.
Two of our partner charities that are working in the border towns have been sharing their stories.
Mission without Borders (MWB) are working in Palanca, a village to the south:
On the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 50km of cars lined up at customs in Palanca, waiting for their turn to cross the border. Other places have now opened but Palanca remains the busiest, with thousands of people gathering here and greeted by Moldovan volunteers.
So far, MWB has served over 2,000 meals to refugees. Sergiu, a local pastor working with MWB said, “In the last few days, around 160 people ate at the centre; some continued on their journeys, and others remained to warm themselves. They are devastated, exhausted and very scared. When you ask them where they come from and what happened, they can’t control their tears. We hope to have enough warm blankets and clothes to offer them. Most of them stop just to eat, rest a little and leave for Romania or for other countries. You can see the fear and uncertainty in their eyes. It breaks my heart to see all the mothers with very young children. We do all we can to welcome them and show them that we care.”
In the community centre where MWB usually holds its after school club for local children, the desks and chairs have been pushed to the side of the room, and mattresses spread on the floor for refugees to sleep on. The beds are always full, with more people waiting for a rest when others wake up.
Pastor Sergiu says: “We pray with them and for them. We pray for peace, both in Ukraine and around the world. We are grateful to the Lord for the way the whole of Moldova is actively involved in providing housing, food, counselling, hygiene products, push chairs and more.”
Mark McCormick, the CEO of Moldovan Mission, tells us about the work that they have been doing:
“We are a small missional charity in Moldova. Our team of volunteers, led by our pastor partners, are meeting those fleeing Ukraine and helping them with food and essential supplies like clothing, nappies and baby food. Some are choosing to stay in Moldova as their ‘refugee country’ but many are passing through further west.
If these refugees, or guests as we like to call them, are not staying in Moldova and are on foot, then our volunteers are transporting them either directly to a border with Romania or to the capital Chisinau where they are transported onwards.
Pastor Costel took 23 African students who fled university in Harkiv where there was very heavy fighting. They arrived disorientated and tired but stayed the night in accommodation in Balti with church members. We have set up stalls: tables with food, supplies, baby equipment and clothes, often funded out of our volunteers’ pockets. One mother arrived with her four children and stayed with Oleg and his family. They were really scared and tired when they were brought from the border to Costel’s house. We blessed them with God’s love, provided an overnight stay, food and supplies, as the next day they were leaving for Romania with transport provided by Costel’s church. Sadly her husband is back home preparing to fight.
Andrei has taken unpaid leave from work as a teacher to go back to the border towards the south in a town called Tudora. Again they have set up stalls and are greeting guests with love and food, clothes, transport and accommodation. On the way to the border they stopped at a bakery to buy fresh placinte (a sort of pie) and the baker said they were closed and don’t bake on a Sunday. But when he heard it was for guests at the border, he rang some other bakers and between them they made 300 pies and donated them to Andrei for the Ukrainians. Everyone is doing all they can.
If Putin has expansionism in mind, then Moldova would be his next target and an easy one at that. For this reason, many are just passing through to other safer countries, so there is a continual movement of people – mainly women and children, as the men are dropping them off at the border in order to return to fight.
The Moldovans themselves, out of their poverty, have been generously giving whatever they can.”