Home Christian News US Ukrainian Clergy, Flocks Show Support Amid Russia Crisis

US Ukrainian Clergy, Flocks Show Support Amid Russia Crisis

Ukrainian clergy
The Rev. John Haluszczak stands in St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022. Haluszczak's church recently held a "Souper Bowl" fundraiser, selling homemade soups and pierogies, to help feed the needy in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Yuriy Opoka prays his wife and young daughter will be safe in Ukraine as he closely follows the massive buildup of Russian troops on the country’s borders and dire warnings that they could invade at any time.

The 33-year-old journalist often calls his family from Philadelphia, where he’s attending an English course, and recently joined others in the city’s Ukrainian community at a rally calling for peace back home.

“My 5-year-old daughter asks my wife why Russians want to kill Ukrainians,” Opoka said about his loved ones, who live in the western city of Lviv. “I’m frustrated and also worried about them.”

Religious leaders and members of the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States are growing increasingly concerned over the threat of a dramatic escalation of the nearly decade-old conflict and have stepped up efforts to show support for family members and their Eastern European homeland.

That support ranges from offering spiritual succor during special prayer services and maintaining charitable donations to organizing demonstrations and full-throated institutional declarations opposing Moscow’s actions amid the biggest security crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

Moscow, which has more than 100,000 troops deployed near Ukraine, insists it has no plans to attack and said Tuesday that some of its troops had pulled back from the area. But a U.S. defense official said Russian troops were moving toward, not away from, the Ukrainian border, and Western officials warn an invasion could happen at any moment.

“It’s a stressor for all of us here … because of the danger that it will be a bloody mess,” said the Rev. Taras Lonchyna, pastor of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church in Trenton, New Jersey. “Our parishioners have contact with their families. … They’re not only concerned about COVID but about the war.”

St. Josaphat parishioner Myroslava Kucharska said she talks daily with her two sons and four grandchildren who live in the southern city of Mykolaiv and in Kyiv, the capital.

“I tell my sons: ‘Be ready, be ready,’” Kucharska said. “We’re praying with tears in our eyes. … We know what war means.”

Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, where most in the congregation have relatives in western Ukraine, has responded to the crisis by keeping parishioners up to date on the situation and encouraging prayer, including at a recent service focused on peace. Should the need arise, the Rev. Jason Charron said, the church is prepared to provide humanitarian help as it has in recent years for the country’s war-torn east.

After emerging from decades of communist Soviet rule, Ukrainian Catholics are prepared to resist any invasion that would threaten to put them under the Kremlin’s thumb again, Charron said: “For them, the repression of their culture and their history is tied with the repression of their faith.”