This article was originally published by the Eurasia Region and on https://www.nazarene.org/article/ukraine-one-year-zees-story
On the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I was grateful to see my friend Zee Gimon’s testimony shared around the Nazarene world. Her story is one of God’s grace and continued presence in the midst of horrific circumstances. Please keep praying for her and the millions of other refugees and those who have stayed in Ukraine, as well.
Zee Gimon remembers standing in her rental kitchen in Berlin, struggling with homesickness.
“I love to cook,” Gimon says. “I have a huge assortment of spices at home in my kitchen.”
But in Berlin, salt and pepper were the only spices in the cupboard.
“That was hard,” Gimon said. “I cannot buy all the spices that I have at home—because I’m going back. But at the same time, how can I find something that would bring me joy? Because I love cooking.” It was the summer of 2022, and Zee was living with the daily tension of a life in two places—the life of a refugee.
When the war broke out, Gimon’s husband joined the Ukrainian territorial guard. The couple decided that she and their two children would remain at home.
“We had absolutely no desire to leave,” Gimon said.
They prepared to wait out the war as safely as possible, purchasing non-perishables and extra water. But after a short period of living in multiple temporary homes, including her church, Gimon made an incredibly difficult decision: she and her children would leave Ukraine. Her husband, serving in the military, would remain.
“For me, it was important that he would be not thinking about us, because we were fine, but thinking about what he has to do,” Gimon said.
So she gathered her two children, her mother, and the family cat, and left Ukraine.
Five days later, they found themselves in Berlin. Had the family wanted to move, Gimon says, the city would have been the perfect fit. Her kids went to a private Christian school, she and her mother volunteered at their local church, and they quickly found new friends.
“Germany was great,” Gimon said. “But we still were refugees. It wasn’t home.”
While their apartment was spacious and comfortable, Zee missed sleeping in her own bed and cooking with her multitude of spices.
“I wanted to have my tiny apartment with everything in place,” she says.
Daily, Gimon continued to be reminded of the life and loved ones she had left behind.
She was filling out a form and read the question, “Are you a single parent? Yes or no.”
“It took me a week to answer the question,” she said. “I just couldn’t bring myself to answer.”
In Germany, she was operating as a single parent.
“But on the other hand,” Gimon remembers thinking, “I’m not a single parent, because my husband is, for the moment, alive.”
She had to officially state that she was acting as a single parent to receive some services.
“It was super scary,” she says. “I was so used to relying on my husband. We were always together; we did ministry together, we worked together, we did family together.”
Losing the physical support and presence of her husband was awful, yet Gimon says that the situation pushed her into a deeper relationship with God.
“I only had God to lean on,” she remembers.
Gimon says those hardest moments were when she was most thankful that she served a God who answers prayers.
“There were mornings when I would get up and I would be like…I don’t have any strength. I have no idea how I will live this day,” she said.
But each day there would be just enough grace—her daily manna. God carried her through every difficult hour, and her trust in Him deepened.
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