LVIV, Ukraine — A Russian invasion of Ukraine. A war in the year 2022. Events we thought unimaginable just a few short weeks ago.
A Colorado man, Joe Reimers, is in war-torn Ukraine, which has been his home for four years. What he and others are witnessing in Ukraine is more than any human should.
“We have seen a lot of ugly things in these last few days, and a lot of the worst that humanity has to offer," said Joe. "But here in Ukraine, we have also seen the best that humanity has to offer, the bravery and the decency of common people who are who are doing everything they can to, to protect their country and to take care of each other. “
Denver7 anchor Anne Trujillo spoke to Joe and his wife, Dasha, by Zoom to understand what life is like in Ukraine right now, and they didn't hold back.
“People here are in hell right now, and there is no shortage of needs," Joe said. "And so, even being here in Ukraine, we feel powerless to really stop this situation.”
Joe grew up in Bayfield Colorado, attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins and went to Kyiv Ukraine to work for New Generation Christian School after having traveled there during his high school years.
“My church had a youth pastor who went on to work in Ukraine as a missionary. He got married, and he and his wife moved to Ukraine and I stayed in touch with them and came to help them with some camps they were doing on a couple of short-term trips here," Joe said. "Really, you know, I had been thinking about living overseas for a long time, and this seemed like a great place to do it. And I believed in the work that they were doing, so I came up first to join them.”
That’s where he met Dasha, a fellow teacher. They were working in a bilingual school where Dasha teaches first and second grade in the Ukrainian program and Joe teaches science and Bible studies. Joe and Dasha fell in love and in June 2021, and the two married in Kyiv.
“My family was there. Of course, Dasha’s family was there, as well and a lot of our friends," Joe said, recalling his wedding day. "Yeah, I was looking at the pictures of it today... I mean, it was what, 8 months ago? Yeah. And it just feels like a different life.”
Life keeps changing at a quick pace for these newlyweds, who watched Dasha’s brother leave their hometown to join the fight.
“Men 18 to 60 can't leave the country. They have to decide, you know, are they going to separate their family or are they going to stay together and risk the conflict expanding to where they are? And just how many people are just making these impossible choices? You know, do I risk making my wife a widow? Or do I go defend my country's right to exist? Do I separate my family? Or do I, you know, get my family to safety? Or, you know, or do I keep us together and risk? So just impossible choices people are facing," Joe said.
As a U.S. citizen, Joe and Dasha could leave, but for now, they choose not to. They moved to the western part of the country to Lviv where there is no fighting around them for now. They brought with them and are caring for Dasha’s younger sister, a teacher from their school who has a 10-month-old, and others who had nowhere else to go or needed medical care.
“You know, for me and for us, it's impossible not to see the hand of God in directing us here. And we believe that, that this is right where we're supposed to be right now," Joe said.
That is not to say they don’t worry.
“At times, I think we both feel scared. At times, we both feel sad, and we want to cry and we do cry. Yeah, at times we feel as angry as we've ever felt in our lives," said Joe. "And at times, we feel so inspired by the good we're seeing people do here, and you feel all of those emotions every hour, and you just repeat the cycle all day.”
Their biggest worry right now is Dasha’s family in Mauripol in southeastern Ukraine. Her parents stayed to care for Dasha’s grandmother. Dasha says a few days ago, her parents were told to evacuate.
“They decided to hide in a shelter under the church building," said Dasha. "So they're here, they are there now for more than three days. And yesterday in the evening, it was the last time we were able to talk to them.”
All she knows about her hometown is what she has seen on the news.
“We know that the city is on fire, and that Russian soldiers are just bombing normal people," Dasha said.
The need around them, they say, is endless. That’s what keeps them in Ukraine.
Their Colorado friends have been keeping in touch, checking up on them, worried about their safety. And because they know Joe and Dasha were caring for others, their friends came up with the idea to send money.
Joe gets a big smile on his face talking about his friends.
“So yeah, it wasn't even something, you know, we asked for. Things are just so chaotic here," said Joe. "Basically at first, you know, I'm in a fantasy football league with Blake (Friend) and a couple other people, and they used that knowledge of how to send me money to start sending money when the war broke out. And we've done our best to use what was there just to get people who were in situations where they need it.”
Joe and Dasha are so appreciative because they have been able to help so many who have no savings, no other way to get out of Ukraine, no means of buying medicine, gas or food, all of which is becoming scarcer by the day.
Joe and Dasha sit close, holding onto one another as they talk about their beloved Ukraine.
“There's a saying Dasha taught me a little while back in Ukrainian. I hope I say it right. And literally translated, it means, "With the whole village.” It's for this idea of this thing that will happen here in Ukraine that I've never really quite seen anywhere else in the same way, where if you have a problem to solve and you tell one person about that problem, you know, within 10 minutes, you'll have 30 people there trying to solve your problem with you," Joe said. "Right now, all of Ukraine is that village, and they're all trying to take care of each other. And we hope and we pray, and we believe that we'll still have a free Ukraine after all this is over.”
They want you to know they feel your love and concern.
“One of the things that's kept us going is knowing that most of the world sees what's really happening here and sees it for what it is," Joe said. "And so we're thankful for that. And we just thank everyone there for the support. And we ask you please, just those of you who pray to pray for us here. Those of you who have financial means to find a way to use those to help the people here, and we promise you, the whole village here is going to do what they can to get it to where it needs to go.”
The Reimers know there are several ways you can choose to help Ukraine, and they ask you to do so if you can. Most of all, they ask for your prayers.
If you would like to help Joe and Dasha Reimers in their grassroots effort, click here to donate to the emergency fund that directly supports Joe, Dasha and their team. When you see “select a campaign” choose “Ukraine Emergency Fund – Reimers.”