February 24, 2022 – Russia invaded Ukraine. The world was aghast that a sovereign nation was facing an unprovoked attack. Images of crying children, pregnant women, bombed buildings, etc. hit the airways and the media outlets. The horror of war traveled across the oceans, directly into the living rooms and offices of the free world. Ukraine, which many could not have pointed out previously on a map, was the center of attention. People awoke to the latest updates of casualties being broadcast over morning radio shows. During lunch breaks people read up on the news via their mobile devices, shocked at the brutality of the invasion. The evening news showed in vivid color the horror that was taking place in Ukraine. Hearts broke and wallets opened. As when faced with any major disaster, good people wanted to help. They needed to “do” something. Fundraisers were held, prayer services were well attended, preparations were made to assist refugee families, and daily people prayed and awaited a cessation to the brutality, certain it would end within a few months’ time.
The images of bloodied bodies lying in the streets, burned down shells of hospitals and schools, destroyed churches, mothers weeping for their children, children screaming for their mothers, mass graves…. have faded. Today, people are more interested in the latest TikTok trend, the latest fashions, the coronation of kings, the election of governments, baseball statistics, and plans for summer vacations. Few even think of Ukraine anymore. They have become numb to the war, to the horror, and the constant requests for help… A war, far away, across the ocean, no longer seems relevant.
Yet while the world has become accustomed to the war in Ukraine, the innocent people of Ukraine have not. How does one become accustomed to constant missile attacks? How does one become accustomed to saying “I love you, and goodbye” every day not knowing if they will live to see tomorrow? How does one become accustomed to living without food, when their stomachs growl, and their babies whimper from hunger? How does one become accustomed to having their children kidnapped and taken to Russia to be indoctrinated? How does one become accustomed to no medical care – with their friends, family and neighbors dying from kidney stones, urinary infections, simple cuts that become infected… all of which had been easily curable prior to the invasion? How does one become accustomed to living underground in cellars out of fear of being bombed? How does one become accustomed to suddenly living without electricity, fuel, or even wood to burn for heat and to cook food? How does one become accustomed to not having a warm coat for their child, diapers for their infant, or gloves for their elderly grandmother? How does one become accustomed to being raped? How does one become accustomed to being pulled out of their homes, hands tied, and being shot? How does one become accustomed to living in terror?
On this, the 441st day of the invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainians have not grown accustomed to the war. Every day they struggle to survive. Many have been forced from their homes, living as internally displaced persons. Hunkering down in bombed out buildings, in abandoned schools, even in demolished homes, mothers hold their children close and sing lullabies to coax them to sleep, while themselves keeping a weary eye open and listening for the slightest sound of unwelcome footsteps or the whirring of missiles flying overhead.
Kostyantynivka, a once thriving industrial city in the Donetsk Oblast, was one of the first cities to be hit by the invading Russian forces. In the first few hours of the invasion, the city was struck by missiles, and has constantly been bombarded ever since. The once peaceful streets lined by majestic trees, is now a city of rubble, a city of demolished buildings and infrastructure. A large fire was ignited in the city when it was hit by a Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missile, destroying a fuel depot, and burning down much of the surrounding buildings. A mere five weeks ago, the city’s “Invincibility Point”, a humanitarian support center, was struck by missiles killing numerous civilians. The onslaught does not ease up, and the terror continues to mount.
With all this horror raining down upon them, the people still hold out and have hope. Their faith is strong, and with a prayer in their hearts they are determined to overcome this latest invasion. The people of Kostyantynivka, and other bombed cities of Ukraine are right to hope, and their hope is not in vain.
With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and the Diaspora, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA, and Consistory President, has actively been sending aid to Ukraine thanks to the generous donations of the faithful of the Church. Working through Very Rev. Fr. Kostyantyn Kuznyetzov of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the UOC of the USA has been able to send supplies and support Ukraine during these trying times.
Despite daily shelling and airstrikes, Fr. Kostyantyn and his team have been able to travel to the war-torn areas of eastern Ukraine and provide much needed aid. Bags of basic food items such as rice, pasta, oil, canned goods, and bread are delivered to the humanitarian centers where people come to pick them up. First Aid kits, flashlights, batteries, coats, gloves, blankets, and pillows are provided to the displaced persons, easing their suffering. Mothers are provided with diapers, baby blankets and much needed baby formula, as the constant stress, fear, and lack of sleep due to the persistent shelling, has hindered their own production of milk for their infants. During Pascha children were gifted chocolates, and blessed paska breads. The elderly have been provided with warm blankets to wrap themselves in, along with food, and adult nappies.
In addition to caring for the most basic needs of those suffering in Ukraine, funds have been utilized to purchase numerous ambulances which travel deep into the warzone to rescue both civilians and injured soldiers. Logistical vehicles have been provided to assist in delivery of supplies and equipment, along with hundreds of generators utilized to keep the lights on, charge cellphones, prepare meals across the eastern regions of Ukraine. Boots, socks and helmets have been purchased and delivered to the armed forces, along with tourniquets, bandages, splints, and other emergency medical supplies.
When hope is but a dim glimmer in someone’s soul, it is our responsibility to stoke that tiny flame and ignite it within their hearts. As Orthodox Christians, we are to always think of others before ourselves. We are never to forget those suffering, turn a cold shoulder to someone in need, or ignore someone’s cry.
Christ taught us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, etc. We can accomplish all this by conquering apathy and donating to the UOC of the USA Humanitarian Fund. Times are tough. The economy is not doing well. We, in the States, are not living a life of ease and prosperity… however, neither are we hiding in our basements, boiling tree bark for soup, nor dying for the lack of a simple antibiotic.
It is day 441… and the need is still there. Babies are still weak with hunger. The elderly are still barefoot and cold. Families are still crouching in bombed out buildings. Sirens are still blaring over the entire nation of Ukraine as people brace for more shelling.
Pray for Ukraine, and please consider donating to the UOC of the USA Ukrainian Humanitarian Fund. Keep the flame of hope lit for those living in darkness.