Ukrainian priest: We are tired and losing hope

Fr Roman Ostrovskyy, Vice-Rector of the Greek Catholic seminary in Kyiv, expresses the sense of downtroddenness felt by Ukrainians in this third year of the conflict in their country. He says that, on the darkest days, faith keeps him going.

Jun 12, 2024

At least three people were injured in overnight drone attack in Kharkiv (ANSA)

By Svitlana Dukhovich
"As long as a person is alive, there is always hope, a desire to see things change for the better and believe that we can make a difference."

Speaking to Vatican News, Father Roman Ostrovskyy, Vice-Rector of the Greek-Catholic seminary in Kyiv, shares his reflections on the Bull "Spes non confundit," with which Pope Francis recently proclaimed the upcoming Jubilee Year.

Father Roman is a biblical scholar, having studied biblical theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and now teaches in seminary.

"I read the text of the bull carefully," he says, "and found many beautiful and interesting themes. For example, an important passage is where the Holy Father says that the Christian life is a journey, and the goal of this journey, and also of the Jubilee Year, is the encounter with the Lord Jesus. Catholics and all Christians in Ukraine feel this protective presence of Jesus.”

“However,” he says, “on the other hand, we all see a tremendous growth in discouragement. We are in the third year of war, and people feel it deeply: they are tired, losing hope that things here can change for the better, that our voices will be heard."

The young priest recounts that when full-scale war broke out in his country, there was much fear and confusion about what was happening. "But," he emphasizes, "there was hope because Ukraine was defending itself strongly; something was happening.”

However, now, with the war dragging on and much resulting suffering and uncertainty, many people are falling into despair.

"It is really difficult for us to think about tomorrow,” Fr Ronan says. “In Ukraine, it is not realistic to plan more than a week in advance. Air raid sirens sound, adults and children hide in shelters... Everyone is waiting for what will happen next, which piece of land will be taken away. And the worst part is that we are not able to oppose it alone. Sometimes, it feels like we are being watched like a computer game, where it is interesting to see what happens, but no one wants to fully participate and help the people in need of simple assistance, and fundamentally, just stop the aggressor."

To lie for the sake of a child
When asked what helps people survive in these conditions, Father Roman replies: "Each of us tries to preserve the fundamental aspects of our lives. Certainly, faith helps a lot; prayer heals and helps us move forward on the worst days, to see a bit of light and trust that the Lord will not abandon us.”

“But”, he says, “when you meet people and families who tell you, 'We haven’t told our child that his father died in the war, because he is four years old, and still writes letters to him,' you understand how a family is simply forced to lie, to pretend, just to preserve the child's mental health. And there are hundreds, thousands of such families. The world should react more and talk more because the aggression is continuing."

Life under the bombs
The Vice-Rector of the Greek-Catholic seminary notes that many of the initiatives that might be organized during the Holy Year cannot be brought to fruition in Ukraine. Pilgrimage, for example, was one of the practices most loved by Christians in the country.

"Every time we plan something," Fr Ronan explains, "we have to consider the fact that bombs could fall on us. It is always necessary to have some kind of shelter nearby to escape and hide. So all normal activities are now questioned."

Father Roman shares more thoughts on aspects mentioned in the Pope's Bull that, he says, are very important, such as motherhood and fatherhood. In Ukraine, even these are a struggle: "Many mothers with children have had to leave the country, fathers have stayed behind, some are fighting at the front. And unfortunately, we already have many examples of families breaking up because wives remain abroad and men cannot leave, creating enormous tension that affects many families."

Pessimism about tomorrow
The Jubilee Year is also a time to help the disadvantaged feel God's mercy. Unfortunately, the war, which has lasted for two and a half years, prevents this from happening: poverty is growing, hospitals are systematically hit by Russian missiles, the number of refugees and migrants is increasing, and the elderly are left alone.

"This invasion means that the very dignity of a human being is simply trampled to the lowest level. When we see bombs falling on a hospital or a nursery and then there is no reaction," concludes Father Roman, "it really takes away all hope and makes one look at tomorrow with great pessimism." --Vatican News

Total Comments:0