From Port to Ukraine, with love and prayers

Never imagining the country they called home for 16 years would be fighting for its existence, Portview Christian ministers launch relief effort to help those struggling to survive

THE PIERQUET FAMILY, including (from left) son Evan, father Paul, dog Olive, daughter Emma and mother Christine posed for a portrait in front of the distinctive “love Ukraine” sign at a mall in Kyiv, where the family lived for the past 15 years. They returned to the United States in November, just months before Russia invaded the country. Paul and Christine Pierquet now family life pastors at Portview Church in the Town of Port Washington, are collecting food and other supplies to send to people in the wartorn country next month.
Ozaukee Press staff

When Paul and Christine Pierquet of Fredonia moved back to the United States last fall after living in Ukraine for 16 years, they had no idea that the country would soon be fighting for its existence.

Nor did the couple dream that the people they came to know and care for would be fighting for their lives and their country.

The couple, who are the family life pastors at Portview Church in the Town of Port, said they keep in touch with their Ukrainian friends and congregation almost daily through phone calls, text messages and Instagram accounts.

“The internet makes it very easy,” Christine said.

“We chat with them every day,” Paul said, adding it’s a bit surreal “when you hear the air raid sirens going off in the background as we’re talking.”

They’re grateful that so far no one from their church has been killed in the fighting, although they said there have been close calls.

But many people are struggling to find even the basic necessities of life, and the Pierquets are working to help them.

They send funds to fellow pastors in Ukraine every week to help them buy food, medical supplies — anything that’s needed for survival — and they have also founded the Wisco-Ukraine Project, which is collecting food and hygiene products to be sent to the beleaguered country next month.

The outpouring of support has been great, Paul said, and it’s much appreciated.

While it’s been helpful for them to send money to the people in Ukraine, the situation has gotten to the point where people often can’t buy the things they need because they just aren’t there.

“People here have been asking, what can we do? This gets people the things they need and it’s something people here can do with their hands. It helps them feel connected to the people in Ukraine,” Paul said.

They hope to fill a shipping container, which will be sent to a friend who has a warehouse in Poland. It will then be distributed to social workers and people in need in Ukraine.

And because they know and trust the people they’re dealing with, Paul said, they can provide receipts and photos of the items being distributed so people know it’s truly helping those in need.

They talked about a friend who is sending supplies into the communities.

“They pull into a village, open the doors of their van and people line up, Christine said.

“We’ve been praying a lot for God to change the situation,” Paul said. “Our hope is some government leaders would be humbled and things would change.”

Living in Ukraine for 16 years isn’t something the Pierquets necessarily aspired to. They grew up in Green Bay, and after working as pastors in the U.S. decided to take on the challenge of spreading their faith overseas through the Assemblies of God World Mission.

They spent their first year in Ukraine in the southern port city of Odessa before moving to Kyiv, the country’s capital and a city of more than 4 million people.

They helped found Source of Hope Church in Kolentsi, which is about 60 kilometers from Chernobyl, and another along the eastern front that has been evacuated since the war began.

Source of Hope Church, Christine said, was taken early in the war by Russia but has since been retaken by Ukraine.

Ukraine, they said, has two faces, the modern, urban, middle class life of the cities and the more Old World rural areas.

“They’re a very Western-facing culture,” Paul said. “English is very pervasive, especially among the young. It’s the language of money, of opportunity.”

The country is tech savvy, he said, noting the second largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum, was founded there.

“It’s a very safe, very free place in the cities,” he said, adding the middle class has been growing.

But in the rural areas, it’s not uncommon to find the stereotypical women in babushkas planting potatoes in the fields.

Ukraine has one-third of the world’s black, fertile soil, Paul said, noting the country provides much of the world’s food. It’s estimated that 10% of the world’s wheat is sitting in silos in Ukraine and can’t get out right now, he added.

Today’s war, Paul noted, is the culmination of a conflict that started in 2013. Before that, he said, Ukraine’s president was corrupt and a pro-Russian force, but he was deposed and a pro-Western government installed.

Beginning then, he said, Russia began threatening the eastern border of Ukraine, annexing Crimea in 2014.

That’s when Russia parked tanks at the border between the two countries, Paul said — the same tanks whose tires blew out and that stalled while enroute to Kyiv during the current war.

Although relations between Russia and Ukraine have been strained since 2013, no one saw war coming, the Pierquets said.

“We all had go-bags, exit plans, gas stored in the garage,” Christine said, but no one seriously thought they would be needed.

After 16 years, the Pierquets decided they had done all they could in Ukraine and it was time to return to the U.S.

It wasn’t a decision made because of an impending war, they stressed.

“Nobody knew about it at all. It wasn’t even anything,” Christine said. “That (the Feb. 24 invasion) was a total shock.”

If the war had started, Paul said, “I don’t know that we could have left. How does a pastor leave in that situation?”

Since then, they have been doing what they can. For example, when a fellow pastor from Source of Hope Church, Maksim Dyomkin, went to a nursing home after it was liberated, he found the residents hadn’t had food in three days. He called the Pierquets for help, and they sent money to feed the residents.

It’s hard for some people here to understand why many Ukrainians haven’t left, but the Pierquets said many don’t want to abandon their elderly family members or leave the homes they’ve worked so hard to get.

The destruction they’ve seen has been horrific, the couple said, but the people have shown their resilience.

“They’re exhausted but their spirits are high,” Christine said. “They believe they’re going to be successful. Ukrainians are tough.”

Unlike the Russian soldiers, who generally don’t know why they’re fighting, the Ukrainian military is fighting for their homeland and shown a spirit that few expected.

So, too, has President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“He’s a leader none of us expected,” Paul said. “Man, has he stepped up.”

The couple said they are hoping for a free, autonomous Ukraine, and they hope to return when peace comes to the area.

“There will be plenty of opportunities to rebuild,” Paul said.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the Wisco-Ukraine Project may drop off items at Portview Church or contact the couple at (414) 795-7027 or at


Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login