It's heart-wrenching to read about the immense suffering and hardships that the innocent civilians of Ukraine are enduring due to the ongoing conflict. The efforts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA to provide aid and support to these beleaguered people are truly commendable. Their commitment to sending essential supplies and school materials despite the challenging circumstances is a beacon of hope in such dire times.
The seasons change, and with each passing day the innocent civilians of Ukraine anticipate and pray for an end to the horrors of war inflicted upon them by the Russian Federation. 1 year, 5 months, 2 weeks, and 6 days they have lived in fear, suffered unthinkable hardships, been terrorized, starved, flooded, shot, raped, murdered, and unceremoniously buried in unmarked graves. Those who have thus far survived the unprovoked Russian invasion even though they find themselves in great need, hungry and tired, they are resolute and refuse to give up. While the men and women, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers fight on the front lines, those they defend continue to pray for peace, safety, victory, and survival of not just themselves, but, of Ukrainian identity, a millennia-old heritage bestowed to them as a legacy from their ancestors, and they struggle to continue living in faith, in the face of evil. It would be easy to just give up, but surrender is not in the Ukrainian character. Instead, they resolutely defy the odds, continue to plant, and harvest, continue to create art, to educate their children, to tend to their flocks, to practice their traditions, and to inspire the world, as the Ukrainian forces defend not only Ukraine, but all of Europe.
To help these besieged and beleaguered people, 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 Protopresbyter 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.
The Church regularly acquires and transports aid to the distant towns and villages in the war-torn areas of the country where people often exist without electricity, without clean water, without food, without medicine, without simple basics of life as soap, toothpaste, and hairbrushes. All these items and more are regularly purchased by Fr. Kostyantyn, packed up by his team and delivered to checkpoints where people gather to accept bags filled with rice, pasta, canned meats, jars of pickled vegetables, along with hygiene products, and baby products such as diapers, formula, and lotions for those with infants.
The waning summer harkens the start of a new school year. Even in war, children must be educated. Many parents approach those handing out the care packages with tears because they are not able to supply their children with the most basic school supplies – pencils, markers, notebooks, etc. The children are already traumatized by the war, not knowing if they will have food today, going to sleep not knowing if they will awaken in the morning. Their anxiety is off the charts, as they lose their childhood years to war and hardship. School is more than just a chance to gain an education, like church, it is a constant in their lives. Something they can count on. A routine. Church on Sunday, school every day of the week. Here they get to spend time with their friends, get lost in history, excel at math, hone their science knowledge, and for at least a few hours a day be nothing more than children.
To help the youth suffering under these hardships caused by war and the demolition of civilian infrastructure making it next to impossible to ship in whatever items are available, the UOC of the USA has once again stepped up and donated funds to purchase school supplies in addition to the regular procurement of food items, medicine, and hygiene supplies. Despite daily shelling and airstrikes Fr. Kostyantyn, along with his team, were able to make their purchases, and traverse the cracked and destroyed roads to reach the remote areas where the civilians gather in numbers.
With tears of joy and gratitude the people, most internally displaced from the front-line zone such as Bakhmut, Toretsk, Chasiv Yar, Avdiivka and other cities of the Donetsk region arrived to accept the donations of food, water, and other supplies. Children were overjoyed as they got new packets of colorful markers, sketch pads, calculators, notebooks, pencils, pens, folders and bookbags. The elderly and the young left with smiles upon their faces as they made their way to their homes and shelters, promising to pray for all those who donated and made it possible for them to survive and live another day.
It is important to ensure that donations are made through legitimate and reputable channels to ensure that the aid reaches those who need it most. Donations can play a crucial role in providing much-needed relief and support to those who are suffering.
For those who are moved by this account please consider helping by contributing to the Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief Fund.