A Maurice, Iowa, native who has lived in Ukraine for more than 15 years, is back in the area to connect with her family and her mission supporters.
Miranda Heytsi and her husband and their church in Tyachiv helped refugees fleeing the country when the Russian invasion started six months ago. “Hundreds of people kept passing through our community trying to escape in to go into different countries. Many came in and left because they just needed places to spend a couple of nights and maybe get a meal or they went to the borders and had problems and they had to come back. They needed a place to stay. So we had many, many people,” she says.
Now they work with refugees who stayed there. “Finding places for them to sleep, finding mattresses, finding bedding. We don’t have any places to rent in our town,” she says. “So pretty much even stores we had old stores we made them into places to live — put carpet down, mattresses on the floor. Then again it was in the winter, so we’ve got the whole issue of heating and water and food, clothing, hygiene, everything, everything that’s needed for life.”
The church with 30 adult members is providing for some 200 refugees in their care. “It was chaotic. It was like calling everybody that we can think of drive around town looking for any place we could think of for refugees. And you have to remember it’s not just us looking for refugees, a whole town looking for a place,” according to Heytsi. “So we’re overpacked. We were ten thousand people in our town and there’s like 4,000 refugees with no additional infrastructure and then no preparation. Bam. So everybody had people living with them.”
Miranda Heytsi attended school in Sioux Center and Orange City and first traveled to Ukraine in 1999 while a college student.
Miranda married her husband Vasya in 2006, and has lived in that country ever since.
(By John Slegers, KLEM, Le Mars)