Lidia and Yuriy Buchinskiy say goodbye to one another at the Boise Airport this past March. Yuriy was flying to countries surrounding Ukraine to help refugees who were fleeing Russian bombs. (Courtesy photo)
By Gaye Bunderson
Editor’s note: This story was written in March. Christian Living Magazine prays for the safety of all the people involved and for the country of Ukraine.
To meet Lidia Buchinskiy is to attach a friendly face to a much-televised tragedy. Lidia and her husband Yuriy were both born and raised in Ukraine, but both have been in the U.S. now for more than 20 years and are naturalized American citizens with four American-born children.
Lidia is from Odesa but was born in Izmail, on the border with Romania. “I came here as a fiancee,” she said. Her husband’s family left Ukraine and headed for California in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. As a young man, Yuriy attended a church in San Francisco where church leaders started a program to visit Siberian jails to minister to the people there. Yuriy went with them and also visited his homeland, where he met Lidia. She was just 13½ at the time, and Yuriy was 19. They would marry a handful of years later.
Yuriy has now returned to the area that has been, and continues to be, wracked by war and waves of refugees. Initially, he was in Romania and Moldova but may be moving about to help where he can with evacuating people and assisting those who’ve already fled. He is not the only member of Lidia’s family to travel to the troubled area to selflessly help their fellow Ukrainians. They are all people of faith.
Some of Lidia’s family still lived in Ukraine when the war broke out. Her sister, Katie, was pregnant and had a Caesarean section just after the war started. Katie’s husband, Sergey, was a pastor at Lutsk, a city in northwestern Ukraine. The couple has three other children besides the newborn and, as of the writing of this article, the family was trying to get to the border of Poland and has likely succeeded, as have many others.
Two other sisters, who had been living in California, are now working at the Romania/Ukraine border as interpreters and include Lisa, 32, and Tina, 45. Sister Anna, 40, is serving as a translator at the Poland/Ukraine border.
Lidia’s brother, Dennis Serdichenko, is in Odesa and was able to get his children safely into Romania, as well as his and his siblings’ mother. However, he is staying behind (Ukrainian males of specific ages are required to stay to help fight the war), and his wife is remaining with him. Said Lidia: “She is a faithful friend to him and an amazing woman of God.”
Lidia is proud of her family’s courage and sacrifice. The faith of her family members started decades back with her father, Pete Serdichenko. He started a Good Samaritan Fund 30 years ago in Ukraine – a program that still continues to help those in need today. The entire family consisted of devout church-goers; and the Ukrainian church today, though severely tested, has, in Lidia’s words, “become a place of good.” She tells a story of how six people ignored the war-related curfew and the nighttime darkness to go to a church and be baptized. They said ahead of time to the pastor there, “We’re going to come no matter what.”
Members of the Good Samaritan Fund program are at bus and train stations, giving out food and Bibles and praying for people. “It’s an opportunity to be light and hope,” Lidia stated.
She tells the story of a pastor she heard about who lives in a country bordering Ukraine. “He was sleeping one night and when he woke up, he said to his wife, ‘The Lord told me we are going to host angels,’ and then some refugees came to their house and the couple welcomed them in.”
“The global church has awakened,” Lidia continued, referring to “Kingdom DNA”, through which the family of God is coming together in a collectively compassionate way to care for their brothers and sisters in Ukraine and nearby nations.
She also mentions DNA when she talks about both her proud roots in Ukraine and her love for America: “I am very proud to be a U.S. citizen, but I have Ukrainian DNA.”
She confirms it is possible to be both American and Ukrainian, to be proud of both, and to love both. But even more important than that, she does not hate Russia – because she is also half Russian. The only Russian she bears any ill will against is that country’s president, Vladimir Putin. “He is evil. He is biblically evil, and this is a war between evil and good. I don’t encourage people to become bitter and angry. My brother said, ‘I hate evil. I pray for evil to be stopped’.”
If you tell her that as an American you feel a bit spoiled and privileged to have never had to go through what the people of Ukraine are now enduring, she answers, “I don’t think you are spoiled – you are blessed. It is an honor to be an American. God uses America. Truly, it is an opportunity to help others.” She said her family’s ability to travel to an area of the world now torn by conflict is aided by their American citizenship. “An American passport is a golden ticket,” she said.
Local businesses and individuals have shown much generosity. “In the Treasure Valley, there has been an outpouring of love and caring,” said Lidia. For example:
- Kryptek Outdoor Group of Eagle donated boxes of camouflage clothes and gear that she and Yuriy packed into five suitcases. “We prayed over the five suitcases and they all made it safely [through the overseas flight], including one that was broken and taped together.”
- The Full Gospel Slavic Church in Meridian donated boxes and boxes of flashlights and first aid items such as antiseptics.
- Reflex Tactical Idaho in Nampa donated two bulletproof vests and is working on donating more.
- Cosmo Zimick, owner of Empty Hand Combat in Nampa, made a financial donation through a collection he took up at his dojo.
- Christian Faith Center, where Lidia and Yuriy attend Sunday services at the Slavic campus in Caldwell, has also donated money.
As for Yuriy, Lidia prays for his safety and believes God will watch over him – and this is where she summons up her own courage. “I’m trying to turn my wife emotions off – that would be fear. My sister says, ‘If God plans something, He provides something for His projects, and God provides safety for His projects as well’. I truly believe Yuriy will be safe. This is no time for emotions. This is a time for salvation in Ukraine, for help and hope.
“I pray for this horror to end. That’s for God to end it, but I can do what’s in my own hands to do.”