A Ukrainian ministry is risking everything to help Deaf people escape the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Civilians continue to pay the highest price in this war. The total death toll remains unknown, though Ukraine has said thousands of civilians have died. Rescue workers pulled survivors from the rubble of a Mariupol theatre on Thursday; it’s unclear how many remain in the theatre’s underground bomb shelter.

What if you couldn’t hear the air raid sirens or find information about evacuation routes? That’s precisely why Deaf Bridge is helping Deaf refugees escape Ukraine.

“We have nine vans going into various parts of Ukraine and bringing Deaf people out,” Deaf Bridge’s Stacey McKenzie says.

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“Over 800 (Deaf) refugees have come through the Deaf center, not including ones who have passed through (crossed the border) on their own.”

Stacey McKenzie’s Deaf husband, Chris, began Deaf Bridge to train and equip Deaf church planters. More about Deaf Bridge here. When Russia invaded, friends in Ukraine started messaging Chris in the United States.

“People didn’t know where the bridges had been taken out. So we were looking at maps and helping them navigate [while we were in the States] because they weren’t getting radio messages or any other kind of instruction,” McKenzie says.

“They don’t know what the safe routes are, where the checkpoints are. We also heard about a family who had gone down into their own shelter and didn’t realize everyone else had left their building.”

Today, Chris is leading efforts to bring Deaf refugees from Ukraine to Romania. “On the border in Romania, there’s a Deaf center in the refugee camps, so [they have] all the resources in a centralized location,” McKenzie says.

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“We have a couple of people inside Ukraine who can communicate with the Deaf, and now the information’s flowing a little better. But… many people aren’t connected or are just reaching out for help. We’re trying to get to them as well.”

“Gas and transportation are the biggest costs. We have nine vans and drivers, and the gas for those is very expensive,” McKenzie says.

“There are also (Deaf) people who don’t have access to food, or physically they’re not able to get out. We [are] delivering food and medications and whatever other resources are needed to those people throughout Ukraine.”


Written by Katey Hearth. This story originally appeared at Mission Network News and is republished here with permission.