I stood in the refugee line in Lviv looking at miles of refugees, women and children and the elderly. You could see the trauma in their countenance. They were desperately trying to be strong, but they had been through a living hell with no electricity, food, or water for a long time, watching everything they have ever lived for bombed and ground into ashes.
I realize these precious human beings are scarred for life from the trauma. They can’t breathe. I kept saying, “They can’t breathe, they can’t breathe.” I was there bringing in a truckload of food. I had just flown in from an event honoring Vice President Mike Pence at my Friends of Zion Heritage Center to give him the Friends of Zion Award, commissioned by the ninth president of Israel, Shimon Peres, that has been given to more than 20 world leaders, including two U.S. presidents, Donald Trump and George W. Bush.
It was a gala event with the top evangelical leaders of the world joining me via video. They included Rev. Franklin Graham; former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee; Matthew Crouch, the president of TBN, the largest privately-owned Christian television network in the world; Gordon Robertson, the president of the Christian Broadcasting Network; pastor Jack Graham, pastor Robert Morris, and pastor Robert Jeffress, who lead three of the biggest megachurches in America and were with me as top advisors to President Donald Trump, greatly influencing his decisions on Israel and many other areas.
When I left Ukraine on that first trip I couldn’t stop saying the words, “Ukraine can’t breathe.” Ukrainian lives matter because I saw so much pain and suffering in one of the largest refugee crises in history. It’s nearly all women and children separated from their husbands and even parents, not knowing where they’re really going or what they will do. They’ve seen unspeakable suffering and death.
I returned to Ukraine the first week of April with my son bringing 20 tons of food, organizing it through the convoys that were bringing in the refugees to the border towns, so that those who needed the food the most could get it. As the convoys returned I kept mumbling the words, “Ukrainian lives matter.” I saw such unspeakable death.
My son looked at me with tears in his eyes. He is a father of four young children. He said to me, “Dad, I have been bringing food to Holocaust survivors and orphans for almost a decade now in Ukraine. They’re my family.”
They can’t breathe and their lives matter. As a father, it was unspeakable to hear those words. We had just given the drivers of the convoy medical packs for war wounds, since many convoys had been attacked.
I said, “Michael, would you give me some time to pray about it overnight?” In the morning, I said, “Son, I know you love these people and I know you believe Ukrainian lives matter. These people can’t breathe.” Within a few hours of Michael leaving, he was literally a few feet from a spy who was trying to get into the country carrying three different Russian passports. He was arrested. Michael refused to take the food and simply drop it off in buildings. He had to take the food directly to the people, love them, and pray for them as a pastor. It was extremely dangerous.
I know how painful and extremely dangerous it would be, but what do you tell your son when he hears you mumbling the words, “Ukraine can’t breathe. Ukrainian lives matter.” The silence to Putin’s attempt to de-Nazify Ukraine is heart-breaking. When I left Ukraine, I was also traumatized. I kept looking at people on the internet going on vacation and posting their pictures of being on the beach or skiing or taking a cruise. They couldn’t understand. Why are they doing this? I said, “Ukraine can’t breathe. Ukrainian lives matter.”
It seemed to me no one should be about their normal business when a country is being completely annihilated. But I realize human beings must continue living in spite of seeing other human beings suffering. Ukrainians are very special to me. I began over a decade ago doing everything possible to help these impoverished people when they came to Israel on Aliyah, and had no place to go, so I built a community center in Jerusalem.
They needed tables and chairs and other furniture, so we gave it to them. They wanted to be Bar and Bat Mitzvahed at the Kotel so we paid for everything, for the ceremonies, and even the housing and transportation, and hosted parties for the events. They desperately needed food, so we began feeding thousands of them each week, building kitchens, including one of the largest commercial kitchens in Jerusalem. They needed places to stay so I built beautiful apartments in Jerusalem on my Friends of Zion campus, a banquet hall for them to meet in, and a communication center for them to tell their stories.
Tens of millions of young people rose up when they saw the injustice to join George Floyd with a police officer on his neck, hearing the heart-breaking words from George, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” It was a glorious day of defending the injustice done against one suffering human being. With it, there was a cry from the African American community who saw many George Floyd’s crying out, “I can’t breathe.”
In God’s eyes Ukrainian lives are just as precious as black lives. Ukrainians have been buried in mass graves in a suffering, unspeakable hell, hiding in their bathtubs, in their basements, crying out like George Floyd. They need the support of every human being. That’s why my son and I are launching the Ukraine Can’t Breathe movement to appeal to the same good human beings who marched for George Floyd and for Black Lives Matter; to march for the Ukrainian lives that matter and for a generation that will never be the same, scarred for life, children who grew up without a father or a mother, left as orphans, or widows who will never see their husband again.
The world must not be silent. Young people can organize marches and fundraisers to show compassion for the suffering people. Millions of them are refugees who have nothing and those living in Ukraine are suffering unspeakably. They all can’t breathe and all their lives matter.
That’s why I am launching the Ukraine Can’t Breathe campaign. Please go to https://ukrainehope.com/
Help a refugee family that is stuck with no country, no home, and no husband, and Ukrainians who are in living hell in Ukraine with no electricity, food, or even medicine.