Sioux Center native describes first hand account of war in Ukraine and her plans to return

Maranda Heytsi, left, is heading back to Ukraine where her church has been leading refugee...
Maranda Heytsi, left, is heading back to Ukraine where her church has been leading refugee efforts, despite the risk of attack.(Courtesy: Maranda Heytsi)
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 9:16 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Maranda Heytsi has been living in Ukraine for the last 15 years.

That’s long enough to gain an accent, despite being an American from Sioux Center, Iowa... long enough for her to see the country torn apart by war, its East is a mere shell of the past.

Also long enough for Heytsi and her church to fight back.Not with guns and violence, but with love and supplies. But in a warzone, nothing, is that easy.

First, money is donated in Sioux Center at the Bethel Christian Reformed Church.

Then a team buys supplies in Hungary, before transporting them over the border.

“It’s almost like you have no muscles, it’s that scary.... the kids are screaming, crying. Just there’s you realize you’ve never actually experienced fear until we’ve gone through it.”

Heytsi lives in Tyachiv, a small town not unlike Sioux Center.

It’s very close to the Romanian border, so relatively safe. But, the hundreds of refugees Heytsi and her husband have served at their church, tell a much different story.

“Even every single time siren goes off in our town, even though we’ve never been hit. It’s like, ‘say a prayer and ask the Lord for his protection.’ Anastasia, who’s three years old, she’s always runs to me. She’s scared, you know?” said Heytsi.

Many of those refugees live in Ukraine’s East, in places like Kharkiv, a focal point of the war. Heytsi’s congregation, New Life Church, funnel food and supplies like the ones you see in this video to that city.

The supplies remain underground, for fear of bombing. And, we wanted to let you know that Heytsi plans to head back to Ukraine in early September, where she’ll re-unite with her husband and children.

Then, the couple will continue their missionary work.

Direct relief efforts from Sioux Center

If you’ve been waiting to help those affected by the war in Ukraine, there is a way you can do it in Siouxland.

With the help of Northwest Iowa churches, Orphan Grain Train is collecting items at a drop off center in Sioux Center through Monday.

The organization is seeking non-food items like disposable diapers, wash-cloths, hand towels and personal hygiene items. They can be dropped off through Monday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, except Sunday, when the hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Volunteers are standing by with a trailer at the Centre Mall Parking lot in Sioux Center. Organizers say all of the items will go directly to the Ukrainian people.

“And we’re just attempting to be a blessing and, and just share some tangible love. So come on, come from your cars and your trucks and your bikes and drop off a package of diapers,” said Ruth Landegent, a volunteer.

Donations collected are then transported to Orphan Grain Train partners in Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and other countries, to be distributed to the Ukrainian people.

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