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Three orphans are transported to safer areas in Ukraine. Chad and Mary Martz, who live in B.C. and serve with the non-profit Hungry For Life, have a home in Ukraine as well that is now housing their family and people on the run from the country’s conflict zones.Supplied

The night before Russian forces began missile and artillery attacks in eastern Ukraine, staff at an orphanage in the region filled their 14 vehicles with gas and other necessities. The next morning, 52 orphans and dozens of staff members and their families rushed to the cars and headed west.

About 450 kilometres away, Chad and Mary Martz, who have been living in the Carpathian Mountain region in the southwest, dashed into grocery stores, scrambling for rice, sugar, flour, water, canned meats – anything they could get their hands on – in preparation to find them safe accommodation.

The Martzes have been working with Hungry For Life, a non-profit based out of Chilliwack, B.C., for 18 years. Ms. Martz was born in Ukraine and, in the past, the couple made frequent trips from their home in British Columbia to Ukraine to assist groups and churches in providing compassionate care.

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Their latest trip to western Ukraine last summer was for personal reasons: They wanted to finish building a home they invested in there 14 years ago, and planned to return to Chilliwack in August, 2022, so that their daughter could finish high school.

Now, they’re not sure when they will be back in Canada and their Ukraine home, completed less than two months ago, is now housing their family and people who are on the run from the country’s conflict zones.

“Things have changed quite quickly,” Mr. Martz said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

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It took three days for the children and others – around 130 people in total – to travel to the safer areas in the west part of the country.Supplied

In the past few days, the couple has also been networking with churches and individuals willing to accommodate those displaced. So far, at least 10 churches located in safer areas in Ukraine have offered to take in up to 1,000 people.

The Martzes have worked alongside a church that’s been associated with the orphanage for more than a decade. In 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea, Ms. Martz helped evacuate the same orphanage that was again forced to evacuate this week.

It took three days for the children and others – around 130 people in total – to travel to the safer areas in the west part of the country. The group includes a three-month-old, the child of a staff member, and orphans roughly between the ages of three and 18.

“Considering leaving and everything, they’re doing okay. What they’re struggling with is just the unknown – ‘what do we do next? Where do we go? How long are we going to be here?’ That’s weighing on them,” Mr. Martz said.

Ms. Martz said when she visited her mother on the weekend, her yard was full with vehicles. At her brother’s home, located next to her mom’s, “there were people on the ground, on the beds with babies, on the floors. Every room had somebody,” Ms. Martz said in a video posted on Facebook.

Mr. Martz said he and his wife haven’t had a chance to meet the children: They have only had time to drop off a van-full of supplies for the first group of refugees and are now turning their attention to what they know will be more.

It is “constant. It’s non-stop. There’s people coming here and parking along the roads, because they just don’t know necessarily where to go,” he said.

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Some are landing in Mr. Martz’s region as a stopover and have plans to go to other European countries. Others arrive and hope to stay until the war is over.

He said their efforts are not sustainable because resources are limited and supply chains are disrupted by the war. Mr. Martz and other organizations are working at finding longer-term solutions.

In Mr. Martz’s home province, many British Colombians are also trying to lend a helping hand.

In Creston, Paul’s Superette Sales Ltd., a local market, started a draw in the store on Monday to attract donations.

The situation is ”dire at this point. They need help; they need to find homes for these orphans. … They don’t have any parents, so it is very sad,” store owner Christine Vanderloos said.

Mr. Martz said it’s been a wide range of emotions for them. The couple has family members scattered around the country, and some male relatives face possible military conscription. But the Martzes say they will remain focused.

“If we let ourselves go too much, we’re gonna not be able to be efficient in what we’re trying to do in preparing for those who are leaving,” he said.

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