Ukrainian Trident Made Out of 550 Photos of the Atrocities of the War In Ukraine - Became A Subject of Prayers and Reflection At All Saints Camp
Ukrainian Trident Made Out of 550 Photos of the Atrocities of the War In Ukraine - Became A Subject of Prayers and Reflection At All Saints Camp

Nestled in the lush green valley along the slowly rolling Allegheny River, the gold cross atop its dome sparkling in the sunshine, stood the St. Thomas Chapel located at All Saints Camp, in Emlenton, Pennsylvania.  The Chapel stood like a beacon, welcoming visitors to the campgrounds.

Every summer the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, send their children to enjoy a few weeks of fun, relaxation, and education at the annual summer camps.  The youth learn about their Faith, have fun creating memorable crafts, play games, and forge lifelong friendships.  It is a place of respite, peace, and contemplation.

Early in the morning, as the children still slumber in their beds, the wildlife of the area enjoy the peaceful tranquility found along the river as it slowly makes its way through the verdant hills.  Numerous songbirds call the campgrounds home, including the Yellow warblers who happily chirp their songs, the house finches, chickadees, cardinals, and blue jays.  As the cacophony of bird calls filled the cool morning air, carried through the campgrounds and up the hills and the thick morning mist, the deer emerged from the undergrowth to frolic in the fields and drink deeply of the cool river water.

 In such a pristine and untouched backdrop, it is hard to think about the war taking place across the world in Ukraine, as the sovereign and peaceful nation is invaded by Russian forces.  It is difficult to imagine the horror the people of Ukraine face.  It is impossible to contemplate the terror that has overtaken the land.

Children in Ukraine are not waking up to birdsong, but to bombs exploding.  Instead of gazing out their windows and peering at the birds flying overhead, they duck and hide as missiles fly over their homes.  Instead of slowly rising and lazily stretching, they jump out of bed as the sirens blare and seek shelter in the cellars beneath the earth.  Instead of looking forward to a lazy day with friends, filled with summer activities, the children of Ukraine pray they live out the day.  Instead of looking forward to swimming in a cool clean pool, they press moistened clothes to their foreheads to cool off in the summer heat.  Instead of looking forward to the breakfast they can smell being prepared, they wonder if there are any canned tomatoes left in the dark cellar.

The horror of war has slowly made its way around the earth, as the refugees and displaced persons seek refuge from the terror being inflicted upon them by their neighbors.  This year the children who come yearly to camp, were joined by new faces – the faces of children trying to recover from the trauma they endured, the death they had seen, and the destruction they had witnessed.  This year the camp was a place of refuge for the children of war, who have come to the pristine peaceful valley echoing with birdsong, to recapture their childhood, to try and regain the sense of awe a child experiences when they are not frightened, and to nurture their souls.

To help these children recover the innocence of their youth, a project was unveiled that allowed them to face and conquer their fears.  550 plaques with images of the atrocities of the war in Ukraine were laid out in the field, in the shape of the Tryzub.  The modern "trident" symbol was used in in seals of the Kyivan Rus, and has been found on seals of the Rurik dynasty of the 10th-12th century, and is currently proudly displayed on the government buildings of Ukraine, as well as on the uniforms of the men and women who are fighting to not only protect Ukraine from the invasion, but to defend the idea of freedom for the entire world.

The children at the camp lovingly and respectfully laid the photos out on the green grass beneath the summer sun.  The tragic images of demolished buildings, burning cities, injured bodies, weeping mothers, terrified children, death, and destruction were in sharp contrast to the peaceful backdrop of the campgrounds, making the terrible events even more poignant.

On this day His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA was visiting the camp.  As the children gathered in the field, His Eminence explained to them that even though these events are far in distance from Emlenton, PA, they are near to our hearts, as we share in the pain of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.  Archbishop Daniel explained that we here, living in freedom, are given the responsibility to spread the word, inform the world of what is happening in Ukraine, to care and aid the refugees, the displaced persons withing Ukraine, and those who are barricading and hiding in their cellars in their besieged villages.  Not only should we help them with food and charitable works, but we should foremost help them through our prayers.  It is our prayers that bind our souls with theirs, confirming that we are one family in spirit, and the Body of Christ.

With these words His Eminence invited the campers to join him in a Moleben for the safety of the people of Ukraine, for the return of peace, and retreat of the invaders.  Joining Archbishop Daniel were Fr. Ivan Tchopko and Fr. Mykola Zomchak, and students of the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary: Reader Andrii Vatrych and Reader Maksym Zhravchyk; seminarians Andrii Akulenko, Roman Marchyshak and Mykola Stefanyk.

As His Eminence’s voice rang out, traveling through the fields and echoing off the hills, rising up to the heavens where the Lord watched, the children lit votives and slowly made their way through the field to flank both sides of the large Tryzub lying before them. 

“Lord, hear my prayer, give ear to my supplication in Your truth; pay heed to me in Your Righteousness and enter not into judgment with Your servant for before You no living person shall be justified.

For the enemy has persecuted my soul; he has humbled my life down to the earth. He has made me sit in darkness like those who have been long dead and my spirit within me has become despondent; my heart is troubled within me.”

The children bowed their heads as Archbishop walked around the Tryzub, censing the images, and praying for the people depicted upon them.  The sweet scent of the incense curled up and hung in a cloud above the field. 

As His Eminence earnestly prayed, even the birds grew silent, as if they too felt the solemnity of the moment.  All of nature bowed before the Lord in sober and heartfelt prayer against tyranny and evil.

“Lord our God, Great and Almighty, we Your sinful children turn to You with humility in our hearts and bow our heads low before You. We beseech Your loving kindness and abundant blessings upon the nation – the people – of Ukraine during these days of great danger to their safety and well-being.

Our brothers and sisters, Lord, are once again threatened by aggressors who see them only as simple obstacles blocking the path to the complete domination of the precious land and resources of the country of Ukraine.

Strengthen the people as they face this great danger, turning to You in the immeasurably deep faith, trust and love they have placed in You all their lives. Send Your Heavenly Legions, O Lord, commanded by the patron of Kyiv, Archangel Michael, to crush the desires of the aggressor whose desire is to eradicate Your people.

Grant unity of mind, heart and soul, O Lord to all leaders in public service with those they serve. Unite them all into one, great Christian family, so that together, as brothers and sisters, they may glorify Your Majestic Name – God in the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen!”

As the final prayers dissipated into the heavens, the children, holding their lit candles, slowly walked around the Tryzub to take in all the photos.  They paused here and there to contemplate a particular graphic image, to grieve with the weeping faces, to quietly whisper a short prayer for a particularly injured individual pictured.  Wiping away tears that flowed unbidden down their young cheeks the children tried to comprehend how anyone could inflict such harm upon others, how an Orthodox nation could behave so badly against their Orthodox brethren, how this horrific history could once again be repeated upon the lands of Ukraine.

As the afternoon sun rose high over the trees, and the humid heat ebbed across the field, the children were reticent to leave, feeling a sense of solidarity with the people pictured in the images lying peacefully upon the green grass. They’d forgotten their grumbling tummies, and their desire to go jump in the pool, or to go exploring.  Suddenly they missed their own families, and wished to hug their parents, and hold their siblings close.

The day’s planned activities resumed.  The birds once again began to sing in the trees.  A cool breeze tousled the leaves. A fawn pranced across the field, pausing momentarily to gaze upon the photos lying upon the earth before taking shelter in the shade.  The voices of children were heard as they talked and laughed amongst themselves as they worked on their crafts.  Pure childlike voices were heard singing as they practiced the Lord’s Prayer.  The children escaping the war, mingled, and got lost among the other campers until you could not tell one from the other, as love and kindness permeated the campground; and all the children, strengthened through prayer, matured by current events, and encouraged by their hierarch, camp counselors, and friends vowed to make this world a better place.

Ukrainian Trident Made Out of 550 Photos of the Atrocities of the War In Ukraine - Became A Subject of Prayers and Reflection At All Saints Camp

Photos by Reader Maksym Zhuravchyk

(47 images)

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