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Hoosier pastor flees Ukraine following Russian missile strikes

Pastor Steve Znachko was in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, helping with the Indianapolis-based Mission to Ukraine charity.

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis pastor in Ukraine on a humanitarian mission is fleeing the country. This comes as Russia reportedly fired 85 missiles at Ukrainian power facilities, blacking out many cities.

The attack prompted pastor Steve Znachko to leave the country after helping the Indianapolis-based Mission to Ukraine.

"It got a little tense and I'll be looking forward to crossing the border," said Znachko during an interview Tuesday with 13News.

Znachko was in Zhytomyr, Ukraine which is 60 miles west of the capital of Kiev. 

"Zhytomyr is the home of a military base which has been bombed over 40 times," said Znachko.

Znachko answered questions from 13News while standing out front of a school that had been bombed recently.

"The secondary school is completely destroyed and had no military value and still was struck by a missile," said Znachko. "So, Zhytomyr is at risk and we still hear bombing sirens almost every day and the folks have to live with."

Znachko said Mission to Ukraine recently moved their offices into a bomb shelter so pregnant women and children with disabilities will feel safer in seeking help.

"Mission to Ukraine is a light in the middle of a really dark place," said Znachko. "There are people who knock on their door for everything. From food to help, to get doctors, to government support. They serve every one of the poor."

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Znachko said the need remains great in Ukraine since Russian troops invaded in February 2022.

"Right now, the power is questionable because Russia has gone after the infrastructure," said Znachko. "Often, there's no power. Right now, there is no heat. And often, the water supply is cut off.  It's 40 degrees here today and very cold. Families are struggling on every level."

Credit: WTHR via Zoom
Steve Znachko

Znachko said Ukrainians are feeling a range of emotions with this latest attack.

"So they are resolute, standing together and they're really sad and yet unshakeable in this resolve to win this," he said.

Znachko said getting in and out of Ukraine remains problematic.

"All the airports have been bombed and the runways are taken out," said Znachko. "There's no way to fly into Ukraine. You have to come in through Poland."

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Znachko said it took him two hours to enter Ukraine but said there were so many cars in line preparing to leave Ukraine, it meant a 15-20 hour wait. He told 13News Tuesday night that he had crossed the border into Poland.

Znachko encouraged people to financially support Mission to Ukraine and the House of Bread

"The House of Bread is run by an incredible man who runs over 40 soup kitchens across Ukraine," said Znachko. "He feeds thousands of people every day and you can imagine; the need is even greater than it's ever been." 

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