Photo: Ukrainian Latin rite Catholics shelter in a church basement amid the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. February 28. CNA.
God With Us
God is with us! Understand, all you nations, and submit yourselves, For God is with us.
Бог з нами! розумійте, всі народи, і покоряйтеся, бо з нами Бог!
These words come from a beautiful hymn sung on the Eve of the Nativity of Christ at Great Compline. And they are a humbling reminder, even now. For God came into the universe as a tiny child in a cave, to join us poor sinners in the miserable conditions of our earthly life. And through this, the God who created all, united Himself permanently with humanity.
Not only did Christ come to unite Himself with us, but He also united us as Christians.
Although there are many divisions in the unity of Christendom, we see this unity especially threatened by the current war and the resulting humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
Persecution of Ukraine in Perspective
There is a long history between the regions of Ukraine and Russia. And although Russia is bigger, it is interesting to note that the Ukrainian cities are older, with the city of Kiev having been around since about A.D. 482, while Moscow was first referenced as a small town in 1147. Many events have occurred since then, however, the last one hundred years are the most significant now.
Nicholas II, Tzar of the Russian Empire, abdicated on the 15th of March, 1917. At this time, the region of Ukrainian territories also sought independence, tired of being serfs to the Russian aristocracy. On the 10th of June of the same year, they declared themselves the Ukrainian People’s Republic.
In this way, Ukraine managed some semblance of independence from the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1921.
When Soviets regained control of Ukrainian territory many policies put in place led to the genocide of millions of Ukrainian people. These policies included requiring farmers to work on Communist collective farms and outlawing individuals from farming (including imprisoning those who resisted giving up their farmland).
These policies were just the foundation for the Holodomor – the man-made famine. In the early 30s, Stalin raised the quotas for government’s portion of grain from the farms to unattainable heights, thus removing all grain from the Ukrainians. Furthermore, the inability to reach the quota was used to seize other foods in compensation, such as meat and potatoes. These policies resulted in the artificial famine. Soviet soldiers searched villagers homes to confiscate any food. When the Ukrainian peasants tried to leave their homes to find food, emigration was outlawed. Further, stealing a handful of grain was punishable by death.
This artificial famine caused the death of upwards of four million Ukrainians between 1932 and 1933.
Although the Holodomor and Soviet occupation were tragic enough on their own, these were accompanied by an intended russification of Ukraine. Many pro-Russian policies were put in place, which made it so that only Russian could be spoken in schools, and other official business. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was supressed (along with Catholicism in all forms, of course). Ukrainian artists and intellectuals were also suppressed, usually by imprisonment but also by execution. This suppression essentially repressed Ukrainian culture.
Even when the Holodomor ended, persecution in Ukraine did not. Between the 9th and 10th of March, in 1946, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was forcibly supressed. And so the Catholic Church was forced underground for many years. And we have many martyrs from this time. It wasn’t until the 1st of December in 1989 that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was legalized again.
The loss of Crimea to the Russians in 2014 has separated families who are unable to visit each other due to the Russian occupation, and prevented as many people from returning to their homes. And the displacement of Ukrainians is only the beginning of the suffering of the Ukrainian people. The bomb shelters, the destruction, families torn apart, and churches no longer able to hold liturgies…
And so, for peace throughout the world, for the well-being of God’s holy churches and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.
Aid for Ukraine
There is much being said about the current war in Ukraine. And it is almost entirely inaccurate.
Despite the spread of misinformation, there has also been an outpouring of prayers and support for Ukraine. As a Ukrainian-Canadian family, we have been so grateful towards everyone for the consistent praying as well as the financial support offered towards humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. If it is in your heart to support those suffering under the conditions of the war in Ukraine, please consider donating through one of the following Catholic charitable options.
Americans: Follow the options laid out by the Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
Australians: Donate through Caritas Australia.
Canadians: Donate through the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Europeans: Donate through Caritas.
For more information on the Holodomor