Nebraska State Sen. back from second trip to Ukraine

State Senator distributes electronic Bibles, wood stoves, across southeastern Ukraine
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 6:48 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nears its second winter, it’s left millions without heat and others without homes.

One Nebraska state senator traveled to some of the war-torn areas in southeast Ukraine this past month--bringing what little warmth he could.

A map of Ukraine spills over Tom Brewer’s desk, bearing the markings of places in the war-battered country he just got back from last week.

He said this trip was much more dangerous than his first one in the summer.

“They were hitting us while we were in Zaporizhzhia, while we were in the town,” said Tom Brewer, the Nebraska District 43 state senator. “It didn’t matter whether you were in town or you were up on the front, you were just constantly having something happen.”

Cruise missiles, drone strikes, and artillery shells hurled dirt and shrapnel across his path as he went to dozens of villages, distributing aid.

“As we went to different locations to drop off stuff, they would come under fire, and we would have to get into the basement and hide,” Brewer said.

Brewer, a retired U.S. Army colonel, gave out electronic bibles to keep people’s spirits up. He helped set up small homes for elderly people who had lost theirs to the bombing. And he gave wood stoves to villagers and front line soldiers huddled in bunkers.

“For the wounded soldiers in the hospital that got the e-bible, I think it was life-changing for them,” Brewer said. “I think for the elderly that got new homes, it was definitely life-changing for them. For the ones who were freezing to death to get a small wood stove, you know, it made a big difference.”

But he also brought some things back with him: a World War II-era helmet, a rifle optic used by Russian special forces, and pieces of shrapnel dug into the earth.

His most prized possession, though, was a Ukrainian Bible dredged from the ruins of a village.

“Adorned with all kinds of metal plates,” Brewer said. “And it just was amazing. It was like no other Bible I’d ever seen. So the fact they gave it up was one. But when he gave it to me, he says, ‘Give this to a church in the united states, and tell them to keep the faith up.’”

Brewer did just that. He gave it to Lincoln’s house of prayer--a Christian congregation with Slavic roots and a number of families displaced by war--this week.

Brewer said he hopes it will keep faith in the cause alive, even as a cold, dark winter nears.