Don't Give Up
Vasyl Bondar was killed in action in February 2014. His widow Natalya shares his story, and how Music Mission Kiev's ministry to victims of war has changed her family.
"Do not give up and keep moving forward despite all the obstacles."
That was my husband's motto. It has become the motto of our family.
My husband, our hero
This story begins with the public protests in Kyiv's Independence Square (known as Maidan) at the end of 2013. My husband Vasyl was there every day and actively participated in the protests. At that time, he worked as a taxi driver and helped as he could, delivering food and gasoline to protestors and transporting the wounded to hospitals.
In early 2014, he received call-up papers and left to defend our country. He served as a driver and refueling operator for the 128th Trans Carpathian Mountain Infantry Brigade of Ukraine's Armed Forces, delivering fuel to front line units. He asked us not to worry. "Your daddy will come back a hero with medals," he said. "You will be proud of me."
Early on, a land mine exploded under him and Vasyl came home with an injured leg. He refused to go to the hospital and didn't want to wait for his leg to fully heal before rejoining his brigade. Our children and I tried to dissuade him from going, but our efforts were to no avail.
I received an early morning phone call on February 13, 2014. It was a close friend asking me to open my door. The moment I saw my crestfallen friend and his lackluster eyes, I began to imagine the news he would share. His words—"Vasyl was killed in action"—sounded like a bomb going off.
After that, we began to search for Vasyl. Those were terrible days and weeks. Until the very last moment, I didn't tell my children they didn't have a father anymore. I kept hoping that it was all a mistake and my Vasyl was still alive.
"I don't want my dad to return as a hero," my daughter said when she learned about her father's death. "I want my daddy to come back home alive."
Yet, with the sacrifice of his life, Vasyl kept his promise and came back home a highly decorated hero.
He was honored with a Presidential Decree that reads: The Order "For Courage" 3rd degree is awarded (posthumously) to Vasyl Bondar for showing his bravery and high professionalism in undertaking the defense of the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for adhering to the Oath of Enlistment.
Learning to sing
Christian Military Fellowship (CMF)* has become dear to my family. We've cried and laughed together. We've joked and solved problems together. They have been our guardians, protectors, helpers, and counselors. With their help, we've learned to pray and praise our Lord.
Through their master classes, women learn new skills. And while the moms learn, their children perform Bible skits. In the process, they learn a lot from the Bible characters. They learn how to be kind and respectful, and—most importantly!—they learn to forgive each other.
When we get together, we sing wonderful songs. The key phrase here is "we sing." During the first gatherings we attended, my children and I could barely talk. But thanks to this group's love, patience, and wisdom—together with the Word of God—our eyes shine with joy again. The seeds of kindness they have planted in our souls are sprouting.
My husband's death brought us to our knees. With God's help and CMF's assistance, we've been lifted and put back on our feet.
*Note: While CMF Is separate from Music Mission Kiev, we have collected offerings for them during several KSOC concerts.
Right before Christmas, Natalya and her children traveled with Music Mission Kiev and children of fallen soldiers to the Stara Basan orphanage. There they presented a puppet show and shared the joy of the season with these precious ones.
Oksana Polevichenko, MMK's children's ministries pastor, reports that all the young actors were deeply invested in every aspect of the trip. Not only did they perform with passion, but they also helped to set up and decorate the stage for the puppet show. They helped to unload the packets with Christmas presents purchased by Music Mission Kiev. After the show, they presented the gifts to Stara Basan kids.
Oksana notes that several things have made this Christmas project truly unique. First of all, children of the fallen soldiers went to Stara Basan to give, not to receive. Secondly, Stara Basan orphans loved the puppet show and Christmas gifts. But what touched Stara Basan kids the most was the fact that those gifts were handed out by the children of Ukrainian heroes who died defending their country.