Ukrainian Christian ANASTACIA NEVMYVAKA reflects on how she can have hope and joy as she surrenders to God her life disrupted by war.
Traveling the world has always been my biggest dream. Given a chance, I would have become a photographer or maybe an artist to be able to go places and take pictures of magnificent clouds all over the globe. Growing older, one stops anticipating Christmas celebrations or counting off days before yet another birthday party. Still the moment I book a ticket to a new destination point, the moment the realisation of “It is happening! I am going there!” hits never ceases to make me feel so full of joy; it feels like my heart is doing a proverbial somersault in my chest. Endless discoveries, cultural heritage explorations, meeting new people, trying out new things, expanding my music playlist, seeing the shades and the hues of foreign skies under the same sun — nothing could ever be better than that for me.
I have always been up for a good challenge, therefore, spending about ten years working and studying in various regions of Asia had seemed like a perfect one for me. I even studied in Singapore Bible College for a few years. It never ceases to impress me how unique every world community is and, at the same time, how much we all have in common. At the end of the day, our core values are pretty much the same: kindness, honesty, gratitude, open-mindedness, love, and respect when it comes to diversity.
On 23 February 2022, I did my first stand-up monologue while still celebrating my birthday. It seemed like another cool challenge, yet another skill to master, another fear to overcome. The day was hectic and exhilarating; I had been looking forward to it literally for months. I was still running high on adrenaline when the first news of attacks on Ukraine popped up on some social media dashboards.
Exactly 24 hours later, my sister and I were sitting at a random Kyiv metro station after yet another warning of a possible missile attack.
I REMEMBER STAYING AWAKE ALL NIGHT THINKING ABOUT THIS IN THE UNEASY DARKNESS OF A DISTURBED, FEVERISH CITY.
Earlier that day, we were on our way to the airport to finally go on a well-deserved vacation and birthday celebration trip when we heard the first sirens and found out that the transportation system had been blocked all over the country.
Now, I just did not get it. Why did some people believe that they have got a right to control my life, cancel my plans, make me stay up and flee from home in the middle of the night? Were our lives of any lesser value than theirs? I remember staying awake all night thinking about this in the uneasy darkness of a disturbed, feverish city, full of sound and fury, and could not come up with even a single reason to justify what was happening in Ukraine at the moment. What is still happening there now. Because there is none.
About two months before, I had been in Auschwitz for a day tour. What I saw there in the Nazi concentration camp, what I felt there, literally shook me to the very core. It shocks me that there are still people around who remember the horrors of WWII, and yet we find ourselves in the midst of another brutal war. Was that not enough?
KNOWING HE’S IN CONTROL
I am in Germany at the moment. The rest of my family made a decision to stay back in Ukraine, and as much as I wish it was otherwise, I really cannot do anything about that. However, eventually accepting their choice has become the most liberating spiritual experience of the past months. Acknowledging that their lives are in God’s hands, that He is the only one calling the shots now, originally prompted a tsunami of what seemed like righteous anger, uncontrollable fear, deep resentment, and utter frustration within me. And then it dawned on me that it has always been this way. God has always been in control; I simply refused to accept that truth in my stubborn, self-assured ignorance of a sinful foolish human. As it goes in one of my favourite songs, “and I discovered that my castles stand upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand.”
Apparently, the biggest challenge is to let go of one’s worries, of this incessant need to always seem in control. Deep inside we know who is, in fact, in control — God always has been and always will be. I have learned to be happy even amidst the chaos and pain of everyday news reports and scarce messages from loved ones whose trust in Him appears to be way more solid than mine.
GOD HAS ALWAYS BEEN IN CONTROL; I SIMPLY REFUSED TO ACCEPT THAT TRUTH.
In retrospect, I realise that each and every nation has had a history of tragic losses, and the present as well as the future belongs to God. It’s a humbling thought yet a great reminder that even bad things are finite, and there is always hope amidst suffering.
BUT WITH GOD THERE IS LIFE AND THERE IS HOPE.
The world is still fuelled by the kindness of strangers, by the honesty of friends and neighbours, by the gratitude of those blessed by others’ virtues, by the open-mindedness of colleagues and allies, and by the love and respect within the world community.
I have learned to finally enjoy my life as it is, to experience it without postponing till better days, as they may never come. I cannot stop the war, neither can I change the world. But with God there is life and there is hope. It is tough some days, yet there are times I feel so exuberantly, gloriously happy and blessed despite all the sorrow. Looking back at one gloomy day back in December 2009, when a sad, depressed, and disappointed girl dared to accept a challenge of going on a lifelong journey with the Lord, I know that it has been totally worth it.