Refugees fleeing the war on foot towards the border primarily with babies, the clothes on their backs, and what they can carry. They flee by train or long lines of cars, some of which had to be abandoned on the side of the road after running out of gas. Then going on foot is the only option.
On February 24 Russia invaded its sovereign neighbor with about 200,000 troops, engulfing much of the country of Ukraine……..really Goliath against David. Over 4 million people fled as refugees to neighboring countries and more than 10 million were displaced within the country. I feel close to Ukraine because we have relatives there and we visited them in 2017. Thus I have studied, prayed, and donated to help the refugees. So please permit me to share what I have learned. I think that you'll find this article quite interesting.
Historical Background. The Communist Russian empire since 1917 collapsed in 1991 and most of its captive Soviet republics declared their independence including Ukraine. Russia, still gigantic in surface area attempted democracy which was chaotic after centuries of autocratic rule. The country morphed into a fascist kleptocracy under autocratic rule by a dictator, namely Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, who was elected president in the year 2000 and assumed dictatorial powers in about 2008.
The system is quite fascist in that individuals own the means of production while the government controls under an authoritarian president or dictator. After the chaotic disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, industry was privatized and oligarchs gained ownership in often manipulated auctions for a song. Most became billionaires, but are indebted to Vladimir Putin and are under his protection and control. See https://theweek.com/politics/1012021/the-role-of-oligarchs-in-russia - How did Russia's oligarchs become so powerful?
Since the oligarchy is so rich and powerful, Russia may be classified as a kleptocracy where the Government is more concerned about preserving their immense wealth than pursuing the common good of the people. The capitalistic oligarchs including Putin live high with multi-million dollar yachts.
Russia is no longer Communist; there is freedom of religion with some free enterprise; and the gulag is gone. But the new government’s methods are similar. There is a parliament, but it rubber stamps Vladimir Putin. The press and the media are strictly controlled and dissidents are even murdered without trial. The current Federal Security Service (FSB) is simply the old Committee For State Security (KGB) by a new name. See https://www.history.com/topics/russia/kgb#section_7. Vladimir Putin was a KGB agent from 1975 to 1991. Clearly the system is totalitarian.
Gary Kasparov, the former world chess champion, opposes Putin at great personal risk. He observed: “Evil doesn’t die; it grows back through the cracks of apathy.” In other words the errors of Russia that Mary spoke of at Fatima continue under a different form. A real conversion is necessary inside and outside of Russia including Europe and the United States.
Putin’s Invasion. He perceived Ukraine as a threat because its free democracy is an example to his own people and desires to ally itself with the West and join NATO, the strictly defensive alliance in order to maintain its independence. At the same time Putin has grandiose visions of restoring the Russian empire as it was under the notorious Josef Stalin and the very authoritarian Czars of the 17th and 18th centuries such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/10/putin-compares-himself-to-peter-the-great-in-quest-to-take-back-russian-lands and https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/09/understanding-vladimir-putin-the-man-who-fooled-the-world.
Since Ukraine was part of those old empires by conquest, ---although independent after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsPHKDuP-Hk - The end of a superpower - The collapse of the Soviet Union)---, Putin believes that Russia has the right to retake Ukraine over 30 years later. The Ukrainians are a distinct ethnic group with its own culture. The Ukrainian language is also distinct, but related to Russian, both having Slavic roots as Polish and other national languages.
If only authoritarian rulers would be primarily concerned with serving the people and developing the country while engaging in international cooperation instead of gaining personal power and empire building, we would have a prosperous world at peace! And Russia would be among the most prosperous countries.
If only Russia would follow enlightened Great Britain after World War II. At that time the saying that "the sun never sets on the British Empire was very true because Britain had colonies on every continent except Antarctica. However, these colonies demanded self-rule and it was granted. These include India, Pakistan, Palestine, Transjordan, Canada, numerous colonies in Africa, and a few in South America. Belgium gave up the Congo; France gave up its colonies as did the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Why can't Russia give up its imperial mentality?
The people are told that it is not a war, but a “special operation” to protect supposedly oppressed Russian speakers and liberate Ukraine of Nazis even though their president, Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.
Clearly, Ukraine's sovereignty and freedom are threatened by blatant aggression and a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. If only authoritarian and militaristic countries would devote their resources to economic development instead of war or defense, their standard of living and prosperity would increase significantly.
Will history repeat itself? From 1793 to 1918 Poland did not exist as an independent nation. By conquest Russia took the eastern part; Prussia (present day Germany) took the western part and Austria took the southern part. Communist Russia and Nazi Germany made a deal that came to fruition in the Fall of 1939. Germany took the western half and Russia took the eastern half of Poland as they had previously annexed for 125 years. Britain and France came to the aid of Poland and World War II was on. Today Russia is trying to reconquer Ukraine which it had previously annexed for many years. At the same time Russia has forged an alliance with three other aggressive authoritarian regimes, namely Iran, North Korea, and China which claims Taiwan. Will all that lead to World War III? Let us pray that never will happen.
There is a history of Ukrainian bitterness towards Russia with a yearning for independence and self-determination as espoused by Woodrow Wilson after World War I. That bitter experience has motivated Ukraine to fight so valiantly. For a history of Ukraine go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Ukraine - History of Ukraine and https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Gwuu7TXPwI - The Actual History of Ukrainian Independence (1917-1922) - How Ukraine Became Part of the USSR - The Soviet–Ukrainian War (1917-1922).
Another excellent summary was done by CBS and the scholars it interviewed: https:// www.cbsnews.com/news/russian-history-of-subjugating-ukraine/?ftag=YHF4eb9d17 titled “The Long History of Russia's Efforts to Subjugate Ukraine” dating to the Russian Empire ruled by Peter the Great (1672-1725 & crowned in 1682) and then Catherine the Great (1729-1796 & crowned in 1762). The war today is at least Ukraine's second war for independence from Russia. Subjugation included suppression of the Ukrainian language and culture.
Independence Square in Kyiv dominated by the towering statue of St. Michael, the patron saint of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The name, Independence Square, shows the national yearning of centuries for independence.
In the early 1930s Stalin and the Soviet Union, under which Ukraine was subjugated, imposed a draconian collectivization of farms and religious persecution. The farming produce was confiscated and forced starvation killed 3.9 million people, referred to as the “Holodomor (1932-1933)”. See https://ondemand.ewtn.com/free/Home/Series/ondemand/video/en/to-believe, a fascinating movie produced in Ukraine with English subtitles that shows the struggle to preserve and pass down the faith during many years of intense persecution. Thus the title, "To Believe". The movie should give an appreciation of the tremendous thirst for independence of Russian domination.
Bogged Down and Stalled. Putin expected to overrun Ukraine in a few days and install a puppet president. However, he and military experts were surprised at the extent of the Ukrainian resistance and heroism. Ukraine is asking for material help, especially hand held Jaguar missiles against armor up to two miles away and hand held Stinger missiles against low flying aircraft up to six miles away. Their soldiers are very flexible, adapt, and learn quickly.
Having been trained by the U.S. Army including Special Forces, the Ukrainian Army is very competent as shown by their excellent tactics, smart logistics, and outmaneuvering their counterparts with a decentralized structure of well-trained non-commissioned and junior officers able to make quick decisions as the situation changes. The Russian Army in contrast is more centralized and thus less nimble and much more dependent upon higher levels of command. Perhaps the secret of the Ukrainian Army's astonishing performance is found in a quote by the noted author, G.K. Chesterton, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
Although now a stalemate after a month, the Russia military may eventually win despite poor training, low troop morale and purpose, ill-conceived tactics, faulty planning, unreliable logistics (fuel, food, ammunition, etc.), and insecure communications as well as poor command and control.
Even if Russia wins because of its much greater number of troops and quantity of weapons, that will be followed by years of guerrilla warfare, a similar war the Soviet Union lost in Afghanistan in the 1980s after ten years of fighting. See https://news.yahoo.com/another-russian-quagmire-putin-shadow-131702746 "Another Russian quagmire: Putin and the shadow of Afghanistan" and https://www.cbsnews.com/video/inside-the-mind-of-vladimir-putin/?ftag=YHF4eb9d17#x "Inside the Mind of Vladimir Putin".
If the sanctions on Russia, such as the ability to trade, are effective, peaceful means by a united world can be a very effective deterrent to future aggression of “big dog subjugating little dog”. The memory of previous successfully applied sanctions would be salient.
According to MSNBC, NATO estimates that up to 40,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, wounded, captured or MIA in Ukraine in the first month. Some 10,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, including six generals. About 1500 Ukrainian soldiers have died.
The indiscriminate shelling and bombing of the major cities have been incessant. Even civilian targets, including apartments, hospitals, schools, and refugee centers have not been spared. At least 1000 civilians have been killed and almost double that injured. Understandably, there has been an exodus of refugees, mostly women and children because men aged 16 to 60 must stay and fight.
Russia itself is a tragedy. Blessed with abundant natural resources, particularly oil and gas, it had an excellent balance of trade. It has good technology and capable engineers, technicians, businessmen, doctors, researchers, and other human resources. Used for the common good of its people, Russia could be one of the most economically developed countries in the world.
Instead the Russian Federation has squandered these resources for armaments and war. Furthermore, an oligarchical class unjustly got control of formerly state owned industry being privatized at little cost by political means and corruption, becoming obscenely wealthy with super yachts and high living. Putin protects them in return for their support. Democracy was tried, but the people needed more time to develop it. Putin took advantage of the chaotic situation and seized power, eventually becoming an autocrat. Instead of peaceful cooperation with the rest of the world for the common good of all, there is conflict, suspicion, and war.
By March 22, 10 million people have fled their homes. Of this number 3.6 million people have fled to their neighbors…..Romania (555,000), Moldova (371,000 the largest per capita), Hungary (324,000), Russia (271,000 some had no choice), Slovakia (257,000), and Belarus (4,900). The United States has promised to take in 100,000. Poland alone has received 2.2 million refugees and more are coming.
Poland has been especially generous in opening its borders to refugees without any requirement for a visa or passport. Our niece has taken in a family, a mother and her 15 year old son. At first, the supply of willing homes outstripped the demand because some hotel owners are giving up their hotels for use by the refugees. This is really Christianity in action. The Church through Caritas has been very active.
In countries bordering Ukraine, refugees can stay in reception centers if they can't stay with friends or relatives. They are given food, medical care, and information about onward travel. The European Union has granted Ukrainians who flee the war a blanket right to stay and work throughout its 27 member nations for up to three years. They will also receive social welfare and access to housing, medical treatment and schools.
A New and Foreboding Strategy. Since the Russian military has taken many casualties and destroyed tanks and planes while being stalled around the cities, their strategy seems to be changing. Street fighting breeds heavy casualties. The Russian army has dug in and taken defensive positions to protect their artillery. The emphasis is now on even more shelling of homes, schools, stores, hospitals, etc. plus missile attacks until the traumatized cities surrender in desperation….. reminiscent of the sieges of the Middle Ages. Already short of food and water with no heat and electricity, the number of refugees will increase even more if they are able to escape. Often they are fired upon even after the Russians agree to a safe corridor.
Supreme Knight Patrick E. Kelly addresses a Holy Hour for Peace in the Ukraine at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, CT. In the background is the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Bishop and the Roman Catholic Bishop. About 9% of the 44 million people are Catholic, mostly of the Byzantine Rite. The rest of the 44 million population is mainly Orthodox that broke away from the Church in 1054. In 2016 the Ukrainian Bishops consecrated the Country to Mary (see http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2016/11/182-poland-peru-and-ukraine-consecrate.html). Ukraine, about the size of Texas, is rather underdeveloped. Although progressing under democracy, the highway system is mostly two lanes. Watch the Children’s Choir of Ukraine sing for world peace at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_A-hZ44sKH4&ab_channel=AMAZINGGRACE.
At the forefront are the Knights of Columbus USA collecting donations and Knights of Columbus Poland doing the bulk of the work. There are 1800 knights in the Ukraine as well. So it’s a case of brother knights helping other brother knights among many others in great need.
Interesting are the words of gratitude of Pope Francis to Poland for taking in the bulk of the refugees. “You were the first to support Ukraine, opening your borders, your hearts and the doors of your homes to Ukrainians fleeing war. You are generously offering them everything they need to live in dignity, despite the drama of the moment. I am deeply grateful to you, and I bless you from my heart.” He called for humanitarian corridors to help refugees leave safely and said that those who create war should not think God is on their side.
Families, driven out of their homes by fears of shelling and missiles, use the underground metro subway in the capital Kyiv as a bomb shelter when air raid sirens frequently go off.
You can also participate. The Knights of Columbus announced Feb. 25 a commitment of $1 million for immediate distribution to support Ukrainian refugees, including Ukrainian Knights and their families impacted by the recent Russian invasion of their country. The organization has also launched the Ukraine Solidarity Fund, an international fundraising campaign that will match all funds raised up to an additional $500,000. Thus each dollar donated will be matched by another dollar. To donate, go to kofc.org and click on “Donate” in the upper right corner of the home page.
Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly encouraged the organization’s more than 2 million members to respond with continued prayers and material support. “The situation in Ukraine is dire and worsening. The people of Ukraine and our brother Knights in that nation need our help.” The relief funding will be used to provide shelter, food, medical supplies, clothing and religious goods, as well as other humanitarian needs as identified, both directly in Ukraine and through refugee sites in Poland.
The Knights work with both the Latin and Greek Catholic Churches in Poland and Ukraine (Caritas), K of C councils in Poland, and with international humanitarian aid agencies to address needs quickly and effectively. Should fundraising efforts exceed immediate needs, consideration will be given to assist widows and orphans of brother Knights killed as a result of military action, and for assistance in resettlement and rebuilding for communities damaged by conflict and war.
Knights in Poland are aiding Ukrainian refugees at the border and providing housing for refugee families. At regional centers across Poland, Knights are also collecting supplies — including medicine, generators, sleeping bags and other necessities — and have begun to deliver them to the Archdiocese of Lviv in western Ukraine.
In a Feb. 25 video message to the more than 1,800 Knights of Columbus in Ukraine, Supreme Knight Kelly said, “In this time of intense danger, know that your brother Knights of Columbus around the world are praying for you, your families and all the people of Ukraine. We ask that our Lord protect you and your loved ones and restore peace in your land. We ask that he give you strength and courage to persevere.” See the oral message at https://players.brightcove.net/802593642001/y6FLiIa0f_default/index.html?videoId=6298832211001 . PRAY, PRAY for the Ukrainian people and peace in the world. Prayer is powerful! After World War II, the Soviets under Stalin had taken over Austria. After a campaign of prayer, the occupying forces simply left with no real explanation.
Today Pope Francis re-consecrated Russia and the Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in union with the bishops of the world and millions participating via the internet, EWTN, and in their parish churches.
We met at St. Louis Church, Gallipolis, Ohio at 11:30 am. Our pastor, Fr. Thomas Hamm opened it up with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a Marian hymn, followed by the rosary, and the reading of Pope Francis' written consecration (complete text in the Appendix). That was followed by a litany, the Divine Praises, and two hymns: "Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace" and "Immaculate Heart of Mary". Through Mary's intercession, may this brutal war end.