When we moved into our apartment three and a half years ago, my keys came with key cap covers. Nick told me that he thought of the Ukrainian flag, as the key for the main lock was marked with yellow wheat and the key for the deadbolt above was blue sky. The latch bolt on our door was not latching properly, so a new lock was installed last week and I lost my yellow wheat key around the same time Ukraine lost its freedom.

It is sobering to go so quickly from a class only a week ago in which it’s appropriate to ask, “Will Russia invade Ukraine?” to wondering, “How far will this armed conflict escalate?” Slovakia and Ukraine share a short stretch of border and partly because of this, Ukrainians are a third of the (small) foreign population in Slovakia. This means that nearly everyone in Slovakia personally knows at least one Ukrainian. At the Lyceum are several students and also a teacher in the English department. The foreigners in Slovakia Facebook groups I’m in are flooded with news and prayers and requests/offers for help, as well as information about places to donate and ways to help specific people who are here already or expected to arrive.

I brought some of our outgrown baby items to a donation site on Saturday and was overwhelmed by the quantity of items already there. Pictured is about half of the unsorted clothing donations. There was double that already sorted, along with at least as much in each of the following categories: diapers and hygiene items, children’s toys and necessities, towels, bedding, and food: all donated within just five hours, and it was not the only site collecting in kind donations. I stayed another 45 minutes or so to help sort items and during that time at least 100 people passed through.

While Ukrainian men of most ages are not allowed to leave Ukraine at this time, many women and children are fleeing. There are traffic jams along the borders. Most are entering Poland, but there are checkpoints for those entering Slovakia and a Ukrainian passport will allow free train travel in Poland, Slovakia, Czechia, Austria, and Germany (there may be others now). Temporary shelters have been erected and I continue to see posts asking for specific aid.

Thank you to those of you who have contacted me and my parents to ask if we are okay or to say you have been praying. Our family does not feel unsafe in any way at this time, and while the nearest border crossing with Ukraine is a mere 5 1/2-6 hour drive from Bratislava, the actual fighting feels incredibly far away, especially knowing that Slovakia is a NATO country and we are within walking distance of a neutral country. It’s the effects of the emptying of the country we feel here, the weightiness of conflict’s ramifications, empathy for our neighbors.

Keep praying.