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Volunteer Val finds friendship and support at Salvos


Ukraine war refugee Val (right) has found friendship and belonging through volunteering alongside Marika and Eileen at Shire Salvos Miranda in Sydney.


By LAUREN MARTIN

Just over a year ago, Salvationist Valentyna Yevtushenko locked her Kyiv apartment and walked away, not knowing when or if she would return. The Russian invasion of Ukraine had begun, and her son was picking her up to flee the city. One stressful week later, she was in Australia, sheltering at her daughter’s home. She has been here ever since.

“It was so stressful,” she remembers. “It was only God who allowed us to come safely to that place.” Her son and grandson remain in Ukraine. She prays for them every day.

Not long after arriving, Val noticed the Shire Salvos Miranda building near where she was living with her daughter’s family. A former employee of The Salvation Army in Ukraine, she says she was happy to offer her services here in Australia to the country that had taken her in during her time of need.

“I come twice a week,” she says. “I have made beautiful friendships here. I can share openly and honestly, and I won’t be judged. It gives me purpose.”

Val assists the team at Shire Salvos Miranda food relief and assistance centre on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During these busy days, she can be found packing food hampers for people in need, sorting donations of fresh fruit and vegetables and grocery items and sharing in conversation with members of the community who drop into the centre. She has also been able to use her bilingual skills to translate on a few occasions.

“I worked at The Salvation Army [in Ukraine] for nearly five years,” she says of her previous job as a translator and assistant for the missionary Salvation Army leaders of the territory. “I was involved mostly in the missionaries’ life. I had to be the mediator between people and the missionaries, change currencies etc.”


Volunteering twice a week for Shire Salvos Miranda alongside Eileen, Marika and Michelle helps Ukraine war refugee Val (left) to have purpose in her life as she takes shelter in Australia.

Val says she stumbled across the job – and Jesus – quite by accident (although, in hindsight, she realises it was through God’s grace.) A friend of hers wanted to emigrate and needed to learn English. She had heard that the local Salvation Army offered free English classes, so she convinced Val to accompany her. “I didn’t want to,” remembers Val. “I was too far from the religion. I was baptised in the Orthodox Church when I was a baby, but that’s all. I respected everything to do with church, but I was not a believer.”

Despite her misgivings, she reluctantly began attending and stayed even when her friend dropped out. By that stage, Val was enjoying learning English, and the course led to volunteer work translating and eventually a job. “I started to read the Bible only because I wanted to understand what the missionaries were talking about; it was not me seeking God. Step by step, step by step I was – how do you say? Poisoned!” she laughs as she explains her conversion.

“I asked a lot of questions. I asked why God allows people to die and have illnesses and invalid children and war etc. I thought he wasn’t a kind God. Then step by step, I started to be involved in this Bible study learning, and I appreciated The Salvation Army because otherwise, I would never be saved. Saved not only in the spirit but also saved in the physical because I was supported greatly.”


Val helps fellow volunteer Ed at Shire Salvos Miranda.

Val says her faith has deepened through her involvement as a volunteer with Shire Salvos at Miranda. “I was angry [at first] when I saw people coming here when I didn’t think they needed the assistance and were just taking things because they are free.” She says having experienced severe poverty, she struggled to see people in Australia getting help when they didn’t look like they were in severe need.

“But David [Lieut-Colonel David Godkin, Mission Leader] told me that every person has their own story, and we can’t judge. In Australia, people have more, but they spend more. And because the country is wealthy, it can support people well. You will never die here because you are hungry.”

She is grateful because, over time, “God has been working in my heart” and allowing her to see people how he sees them.

Val doesn’t know when she will return to Ukraine. “I am very upset because of the situation. My son is 46, and my grandson is 22, and I am concerned and frightened for him. I don’t want my children to be involved. I don’t want them to kill or be killed.”

Please keep Valentyna, her family, and all those in Ukraine in your prayers.

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