Native Wheatland woman/Ukrainian minister fights the good fight from Platte County


Much of Kyiv, Ukraine has been reduced to concrete, steel and rubble as Russia continues its relentless assault. Local Wyoming woman who has ministered in Ukraine for several years says that there are crimes against humanity being committed. Photo by Aris Messinis. Local Wheatland resident Renee Chebotarev is pictured with her daughter, Meile Chebotarev who is a senior at Wheatland High School. They have lived many years in Kyiv where the Chebotarevs were ministers of a large church. Photo by Mark DeLap Kyiv a city in Ukraine with almost 3 million people is the seventh-most populated city in Europe. For over a month, the once-beautiful city is in ruins after continued military aggression from Russia. Local Wheatland native and Ukrainian pastor Renee Chebotarev is fighting the good fight of faith from Wyoming. Photo courtesy Renee Chebotarev. An impassioned plea is going out from Ukrainian pastor and local Wheatland native, Renee Chebotarev for prayer and financial help to get her friends safely out of Ukraine. Photo by Aris Messinis.

WHEATLAND – Unfortunately, the printed word cannot begin to express the horror that the citizens of Ukraine are facing, now over 30 days into the war with Russia that is decimating a once vibrant and thriving country.

Local Wheatland native and Ukrainian minister, Renee’ Chebotarev was back in Wyoming, away from her mission field due to health and personal issues when the war broke out in the early hours of Feb. 24.

Although the rumblings of war were evident for months as Russia began to move troops into a position that would surround the entire country of Ukraine, many people in Ukraine and in the world thought that nothing major would come of the threats. Up until that point, Russia was moving and taking Ukraine bit by bit so as to go unnoticed by the rest of the world.

In the spring of 2014, Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. This event took place in the aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity and is better-known as a part of the Russian-Ukrainian War. Since then, life went on as normal in the growing and thriving Ukraine.

“The Russians had been there in Crimea,” Chebotarev said. “They took over that peninsula, and so they’d always been on that border.”

Crimea sits on the northern edge of the Black Sea while Kyiv is inland, northward on the banks of the Dnieper River which is a major river that runs all the way to that sea. At this point in the war, not only in Kyiv being actively bombed and invaded, but the Russians have demolished the port city of Mariupol and are moving toward taking the city of Odesa to the west in hopes of securing the coastline of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea which is the southernmost border of Ukraine.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but Russia’s strategies from 2014 until now is that they take inch-by-inch,” she said. “The keep moving the property lines. Over time they already have two or three states on the western and southern sides of Ukraine.”

Russian troop movement was something Ukrainians were used to, but weren’t worried too much about.

“When the first started coming in and building up their troops, people were like, ‘ah, they’re not going to do anything,’” Chebotarev said. “That’s how Russia works and the Ukrainians weren’t really bothered by it.”

Despite warnings from some US factions to the people of Ukraine, according to Chebotarev, the Ukrainians just brushed it off as American rumors based on unfounded fear and propaganda. They were not believing any of it.

“So, when they did invade, and it’s been exactly a month, it was disaster,” she said. “Flying bombs, explosions, and my best friend in Kyiv said that they were running to the underground metros. The subways. That’s the only bomb shelters there are.

“And everybody’s running to these bomb shelters, and I have such graphic photographs of people sleeping in the subways, the buildings destroyed, my beautiful city in ruins and my friends hiding and scared, huddled underground.”

For the scenes Chebotarev is describing of the destruction in Kyiv, please visit this link:

A question posed by Americans was the tank column amassed to the north of Kyiv. According to some sources, it was to keep all eyes on the north while the southern invasion was occurring. Chebotarev said that those tanks could have been disabled due to a lack of gasoline.

“Supplies were gone,” she said. “You couldn’t buy water anywhere, you couldn’t get food, there was no gas. I was calling people day and night.”

Chebotarev who ministered with her husband in a large church on the outskirts of the city of Kyiv for several years had come to know people in her church and under her leadership as friends and family. The church was quite large and when it began, there were 2,000 people that had attended the inaugural service.

“I was at war alongside of them,” she said. “I was on the front lines. I have so many contacts. I have over 2,000 contacts on my phone. I knew that our closest friends, we had to get them out. We needed to get them safe. I called my best friend who is my interpreter and I asked her where she was. She said that she was underground in the subway with her 78-year-old parents. She said that they were going to have to be there for the weekend because they closed the city and Marshall Law was invoked.”

The command from the government was to stay in their homes and they needed to stay hunkered down for four days. Communication had been severed and was being reduced to word-of-mouth or spotty cellphone communication, so the people in the bombing knew it was bad, but didn’t realize they were in the middle of a Ukrainian apocalypse.

“The Russians were on the north,” she said. “They were coming to Kyiv. I told my friend to get to the train station by Monday and get out of there. I told them they needed to go west, and when they got out of Ukraine they could decide at that point where they wanted to go. We were calling all over to set up places for them to go. Poland, Hungary, Ireland, anywhere but Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy who had joined the conflict is a hero according to Chebotarev.

“He’s amazing,” she said. “He was an actor and comedian before he took office, like Reagan. When they elected him, half the country hated him and half the country loved him. Now everybody loves him. All my friends are like, ‘we repented, we love him now and pray for him.’”

As for the parents of Chebotarev’s friend, they are not only elderly, but have many health concerns. To be uprooted from the only home you have known all your life, but at that age, to have to leave everything was something a lot of Ukrainians just did not want to do. It was their home, and they had a spirit inside of them that said they were going to defend their homes even if it meant they were going to perish.

Chebotarev told contacts over the phone that when the city was reopened, there was going to be a mass rush on the train stations to try to get away from the destruction. She advised them to get to that station early Monday morning. And it was just as she said. Like cattle being herded through the bombed-out streets, young and old alike, some carrying only a beloved pet, others leaving everything that they had amassed over a lifetime and their life suddenly consisted of one small bag of essentials.

“So she gets to the train station on Monday with her parents, and they can’t get on the train,” Chebotarev said. “Have you ever seen India? There were so many people on the train and trying to get on the train. She sat there until 9 p.m. with her elderly parents that night not knowing what to do.”

Chebotarev got on to her prayer list and enlisted a divine intervention asking God to open a way like He opened a Red Sea in biblical times.

“A few minutes later, she heard over the loudspeaker, ‘a train is coming to platform five,’” she said. “A train to Lviv (a city to the west of Ukraine and about 43 miles from the Polish border). She grabbed her aunt and her parents and they ran. They took their little bags and they ran to the end of the platform because everybody was running and pushing. The train stopped and opened the door and it was right in front of them.”

That train actually sat for 30 minutes before the doors finally opened and they were able to get on the train. According to Chebotarev, it was like that Red Sea opening to them. They were the first ones on that train, according to Chebotarev. But for every miracle, there were others that struggled and did not find room and to this day are still huddled in underground metro bunkers.

“As they are leaving the station, all the lights have to be off,” Chebotarev said. “So that the planes don’t see the train. They had to drive through the night in the dark. Complete darkness. She said as they were leaving the station, they heard the bombs going off. It was like a movie, only it’s really happening. These are real people running for their lives.”

According to Chebotarev, the split in their hearts to leave or to stay was a very real conflict, and some didn’t know the brutality and the humility that the Russian soldiers were inflicting on the Ukrainians.

“They were being raped and pillaged,” she said. “Mariupol is a disaster. It’s like they scorched it. I don’t want to scare you, but just as the prophecies came true about the invasion, there is a second prophecy that tells of Russia using nuclear bombs. I think this is going to happen.”

Another friend was clicking in and trying to call amid a sea of texts and pleas from her friends.

“My friend was screaming on the phone,” she said. “She said, ‘Renee, Renee, they just bombed the McDonalds,’ which was right next to the train station. All I could say was ‘RUN, get on a train.’ And she was one that couldn’t get on a train due to the sea of people. Finally, miraculously her and her daughter get on a train and go to Lviv which has become a gateway to the west.”

The chaos and the fighting have intensified over the past week with death tolls for Russia reportedly heading toward 20,000 and according to US NEWS by Reuters, “GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights office said on Thursday that at least 1,035 people have been killed and 1,650 wounded in one month of war in Ukraine. Ninety children were among the dead, it said in a statement, adding that the true figures were believed to be considerably higher due to delays in reporting from areas with intense hostilities, including the southern besieged city of Mariupol.”

This means Putin is becoming more and more desperate according to Chebotarev as he is solely responsible for the deaths of thousands of his own soldiers.

“Putin doesn’t want to give up,” she said. “He’s lost everything. He’s lost reputation. He’s a war criminal and never going to be able to enter the world arena again. He has 100% committed war crimes against humanity. I have confirmation he’s been targeting civilians rather than military bases. He’s gone after homes, hospitals, the food industry and places where they produce food. He’s trying to break the morale so people won’t fight back.”

Although Ukraine has maintained a spirit to fight and to defend and even to go on the offensive, Putin still has the power to unleash weapons of mass destruction.

“The people are getting tired though,” Chebotarev said. “They are getting tired. Every night there are sirens. They can’t find rest and there is no peace. You have to either run to the basement.”

Depending upon which town you are living in, Ukraine has a strong group of churches that are remaining faithful in the spiritual fight. The church that the Chebotarevs incepted in Ukraine has been taken over by the soldiers, but the church members have moved to another venue. There are reports of people who have turned factories into bread factories and soup kitchens to help feed the influx of people that are starting to feel the starvation.

From right here in America, there are several entities collecting money for Ukraine, but you have to be wary as the scammers have also come out of their dark closets to pocket money. Chebotarev has discovered a way to provide funds that will go directly to the Ukrainian debit cards since the banks are all being shut down and looted. All monies donated to “Humanitarian Aid for the Crisis in Ukraine” goes 100% directly to the Ukrainian people. No overhead. No fees. No scams.

There are three people in Wheatland who have set up a much-needed nonprofit right now. The need is urgent. It has come down to life or death for those who still remain in a conflict that is getting worse before it gets better.

“You can write checks or give cash to Christina Lamber, Dixie Mount or myself,” Chebotarev said. “They can give a check to either of us directly or mail to me at: Renee Chebotarev, P.O. Box 1462, Wheatland, Wyoming, 82201.  Please make checks out to: Humanitarian Aid for the Crisis in Ukraine.”


According to Chebotarev, there are many miracles, but there are also many heartbreaking situations and the bottom line is that there remains a country in the shadow of a egomaniacal madman, fighting for their lives, their home and their nation.

“The fate of Ukraine is being decided now. This night will be hard, very hard. But the morning will come.” -Volodymyr Zelenskyy

"War is a place where young people who don't know each other, and don't hate each other, kill each other, by the decision of old people who know each other, and hate each other, but don't kill each other..." - anonymous

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