Monday, May 9, 2022

(264) The War Rages On in Ukraine as Refugees Keep Coming & the Knights of Columbus Keep Helping.

 AMDG

The toll 32 days after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24: 1151 UN verified civilian dead including at least 103 children. Many are uncounted for as in mass graves. There are 1824 verified injured including 133 children. Out of the population of 44 million living in an area the size of Texas, some 10,000,000 people have fled from their homes. Of this number over 5 million people have fled to their neighbors…..including Romania (555,000), Moldova (371,000 the largest per capita), Germany (369,000), 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 3 million refugees and more are coming. The European Union, of which they are members, is allowing refugees to live and work for three years. Most of the Ukrainian cities particularly Kyiv and Mariupol have been destroyed by indiscriminate shelling, missiles, and bombs…….targeting infrastructure, residences, even schools, hospitals, and fleeing refugees. Such targeting of civilians is considered to be a war crime. The damage to human life and property is horrendous. All of this is a humanitarian disaster. The Russian strategy is to destroy cities and bomb the people into submission, but the people have been very resilient and determined to resist the onslaught. See https://www.kofc.org/en/what-we-do/charity/ukraine.html, https://informingamerica.com/knights-of-columbus-on-site-aiding-ukrainian-war-victims/, and https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8dhS0o-trLijWN1wMTHHzCXhth-_jikFm.

On the military side it is estimated that there are some 70,000 Russian wounded, 7,000 missing, and 24,000 dead with 10 generals among them……. More deaths than Americans in 20 years in Iraq & Afghanistan. Russian losses also include 1700 armored vehicles, 680 of 2840 tanks, 127 planes, 129 helicopters, 7 ships and the Moskva the flagship, 300 artillery systems, 54 air defense systems, and 100 rocket launchers. The outnumbered Ukrainian army 3 to 1 has lost at least 1500 men dead and many more wounded.

Putin and military experts expected the capital Kyiv to fall within a few days, but to their amazement the well trained Ukrainian army has outperformed the Russian army which has done poorly in regard to skill, morale, unsecured communications, command & control, tactics, logistics, etc. Many soldiers feel lied to and often Putin's advisers are reluctant to tell him how poorly his military has done. In one instance, it is reported that 60 paratroopers refused to fight.

Having been trained by the U.S. Army including Special Forces and having modern American equipment, such as the hand held anti-tank Javelin, the anti-aircraft Stinger, and drones, the Ukrainian army has been very effective against the much greater number of Russian troops, tanks, and aircraft to the amazement of military experts around the world. Were it not for Russia’s huge supply of artillery, missiles, bombs, bombs, and aircraft, the Ukrainians would probably be winning. The Russians have not been able to take and control any major city except for Mariupol in May, although about 2000 Ukrainian soldiers are still holding out in a large steel mill there despite dwindling food, water, and ammunition. Some 21,000 civilians have been killed during the siege. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhrduL7efLw.

This all shows that a motivated well trained army defending its homeland can hold its own against a foe which has many more troops, tanks, aircraft, weapons, much more ammunition and equipment. So far the Russian invasion has stalled and the war is a stalemate.

Why are we sending about $5 billion in military aid including the most modern weapons to Ukraine? Simply stated, because it is the right thing to do when a member of the family of nations is so violated by blatant unprovoked aggression to subjugate it. Some 250 years ago thirteen British colonies fought a war for independence, freedom, and self-determination. French aid was crucial to victory for the fledgling nation as was the active participation of experienced high ranking career military officers.....Marquis de Lafayette of France, Tadeusz Koszciuszko and Casimir Pulaski of Poland, Baron Von Steuben of Prussia. Now is the time to help a country --independent since 1991-- yearning to be free and independent, namely Ukraine. 

The free world has a stake in this war because a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. The world cannot tolerate blatant aggression by a larger country upon a smaller country. World peace is at stake because unhindered aggression and oppression eventually lead to bigger wars. In the future may sanctions by united peaceful nations (currently 50) be sufficient deterrents to war and atrocities due to the memory of its consequences, thus being a precedent for a world at peace. If Ukraine loses, that may embolden China to do the same with Taiwan. May all this horrendous suffering be not in vain.  The United Nations has designed impartial mechanisms for arbitration and mediation of international disputes. If only the world would have the confidence and trust to use them! The Church once served this function among Catholic countries.

Prayer has won wars. And we might mention that people are praying not only in the Ukraine, but in churches and homes all over the world…… holy hours, rosaries, and a worldwide novena plus the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary led by Pope Francis in Rome on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation. It was a really a renewal of the consecration that St. Pope John Paul II made in union with all of the bishops of the world on March 25, 1984. In 1989 the satellite countries received their freedom from Communism and in 1991 the Soviet Union disintegrated, leaving only Russia as Ukraine declared its independence.

On October 23, 2016 the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, at a ceremony held at Fatima consecrated the Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. See

http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2016/11/182-poland-peru-and-ukraine-consecrate.html.  On March 17 the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Liviv welcomed the Pilgrim Virgin statue from Portugal.

        

The Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner and official representative of Pope Francis, leads an ecumenical prayer service at the Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lviv on March 10. On the left is Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and on the right is the Latin Rite Archbishop of Lviv, Mieczysław Mokrzycki. The latter two archbishops were among the very first Ukrainian knights (now 1889 knights in 42 councils). Other Ukrainian knights were also present.  In an interview Archbishop Mokrzycki said: “We encouraged our Christian people to pray and participate in the sacraments, because we know that prayer has power. We know from history that prayer has defeated evil many times and has won wars.”

At the beginning of April, the Russian Army is withdrawing from Kyiv after a six week siege under intense shelling and bombardment, reminiscent of the Middle Ages, and is now focusing on the eastern part of the country. This may be an admission that Russia has been unable to take the capital, its main objective since the invasion began on February 24. It seems that the intercession of St. Michael, the patron of Kyiv, prevailed. His large statue overlooks the large city. President Zelensky remains in power in the capital despite 12 assassination attempts. However, outside of Kyiv 900 bodies were found executed by the withdrawing troops. Russia is repositioning its troops, reorganizing, replenishing losses with fresh troops including mercenaries from Libya and Syria, and resupplying.


A closeup of the statue of St. Michael, the Patron Saint of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. It towers over Independence Square, the name which shows the national yearning of centuries for independence.


        Urging all knights worldwide to participate in the novena/and consecration initiated by Ukrainian Catholics, the Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly said: “Together, we’ll ask Our Lady to intercede on behalf of those directly impacted by the conflict, to give strength to our Ukrainian and Polish Knights working so hard to deliver relief, and to help bring peace and healing to the region.”

The knights also participated in a Holy Hour in New Haven on February 26 and again on Ash Wednesday March 2. Kelly underscored the Knights’ two-part response to the humanitarian crisis — charitable support facilitated by the Ukraine Solidarity Fund and prayer. “While the benefits of our prayers may not be as tangible as dollars spent on food or medicine,” the supreme knight wrote, “we trust that their effects are even more important.

In Poland Archbishop Waclaw Depo, the state chaplain presided at a Mass organized by the Polish knights at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. He also blessed rosaries to be distributed to the refugees.

Despite being very much out-manned and outgunned, the Ukrainian Army has done very well, holding its own under heavy odds against what had been considered one of the most powerful armies in the world. Thus I cannot help but think that the avalanche of prayer is achieving results, giving confidence to the people and its soldiers that Ukraine can win. It seems that God is helping Ukraine as He helped the Jews of the Old Testament. We have the faith that Ukraine will maintain its independence, if not in the short run, certainly in the long run. Then may Ukraine clean up its corruption and become an example to the world of a well functioning democracy. May God use this debacle to set Russia on the right course. Already there are signs of an incipient religious revival in Russia. PRAYERS ARE POWERFUL! See my article on World History and the Power of the Rosary & Mary’s Intercession http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-power-of-rosary-and-marys.html.

The crisis in the Ukraine has hit home on the other side of the Atlantic. There are over one million Americans of Ukrainian descent. They have their own Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church. It has its own Archdiocese of Philadelphia. At South Gallia High School near our home there is a beautiful Ukrainian exchange student by the name of Khrysta Svystovych. In no time she became a cheer leader. She’s safe here, but is very worried about her extended family back home. She usually attends Mass at our St. Louis Church. In our own village of Rio Grande, a small college town, an electronic billboard reads “Rio supports Ukraine”.  

In addition our family has a number of relatives who live in the Ukraine on my side (we visited them in 2017). On Jaga’s side, our niece Dagmara and her husband have taken in a mother and her 15 year old son into their home. Father had to stay behind and fight. Their stay is working out well. To reach the border they had to travel in an unheated train for something like a couple of days with no lights for fear that the train would be shot at or shelled.

Charity Convoys and Solidarity Shuttles.  The Knights in cooperation with the Semper Fidelis Foundation of southeast Poland collected supplies at regional points and sent a “charity convoy” of trucks filled with essential goods to Lviv, enough to fill two warehouses for distribution In coordination with Caritas Ukraine. The need is greatest in the east which is most under attack and people are suffering with much anguish. It is especially difficult for “solidarity shuttles” to distribute urgently needed supplies when key roads are controlled by the Russians, but the Ukrainians are ingeniously finding ways. All the work that the knights are doing to help people is inspiring the citizens to continue on with a certain confidence in eventual victory.  

A refugee receives a warm drink after his journey at a kiosk in the Knights of Columbus Mercy Hut at the border town of Hrebenne.

        At Hrebenne, a Polish border town, the Polish Knights of Columbus have taken a major role under the leadership of Marcin Wojciechowski of Council 15267, working 15 hour days. When asked, why he volunteers, his answer was: “I just want to help people”. That should inspire us! Others answered that their grandparents were refugees or had to live for years under tyrannical Russian rule. They know only too well that if Ukraine loses, Poland could be next. The knights and their sons work outside and their wives and daughters work inside.

The knights have set up aid tents which they call “Mercy Huts” at both Budomierz and Hrebenne. First is the opportunity for the cold refugees to get warm and have some hot food, soup, and drink. After all, Ukraine and Poland are at about the same latitude as Canada. The exhausted refugees, many under trauma in traveling through dangerous areas, are provided a place to rest before being placed with families all over Poland. Also very helpful are prayer tents and rosaries with rosaries provided as a gift. Some have extended family all over Europe and the world. Knights and their families throughout Poland are raising funds and/or helping. They have obtained donations of clothes, toys, diapers, formula, and strollers for refugee children.

Tatiana Alexandrovna, an exhausted grandmother with her grandchildren exclaimed after crossing the border: “The first thing I want to do is to sleep with my grandchildren----not listening for every explosion. We lived in such horror; I can't tell you. I am so grateful to the people who helped us escape and to the Polish people who have received us.”

Brother knight Roman Panivnyk and his wife Olga faced a difficult choice: staying for her parents and their country or leaving for their children. “I love my country. I was asked many times why I didn't stay in the United States after working there in 2003. But it was my conscious choice to come back to my country and to contribute to its growth and development. It's heartbreaking to find ourselves leaving it. We always knew there was the possibility of war, but we wanted to stay there because it's our land, it's our home, and we didn't want to flee.”

Olga added: “Roman told me that he wanted to get us over the border and if he needed to stay, he would go back to become part of the territorial defense troops. And he would help the Knights of Columbus in the region provide humanitarian help. If he was allowed out of the country, he would go with us to support me and the kids.

I was ready for anything. If I would have to carry this cross alone with the kds, I would carry it. While we neared the border, I was praying to the Lord to allow us to cross as soon as possible because, for my kids, it was like a nightmare.......Thankfully, we finally crossed the border on Tuesday, March 1, and Roman was allowed through because of our three children. The first thing I did was call my parents, who said they were praying for us.”

The faith is something which has sustained me throughout all my life and in this particular situation, it is the cornerstone. God is with us. When we were on the road, I was praying the rosary the whole time. We were praying together with the kids in the car. What is left with us after fleeing home is our faith and love we have for each other. This is it. I believe that the Lord will sustain us; he will guide us and protect us. We will find a way to serve the Lord wherever we are and to serve the Ukrainian people wherever they are.”

 

Refugees receive clothes from a Polish knight.

Many refugees, who just came with barely the clothes on their backs, receive supplies, toiletries, nonperishable goods, etc. The Mercy Hut also serves as a field hospital, providing medical care, medicines, and IVs in the Medical Tent.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgjqlwBvypk and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qvXWDu8sck.

    You can help too. 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 www.kofc.org and click on “Donate” in the upper right corner of the home page.

        Knights in Poland; Knights in Ukraine. Beautiful is how the Polish knights give food and help to their counterparts in Ukraine who carry out the distribution. Establishing the Knights of Columbus in Poland began in 2005 and marked the first major international expansion of the organization since 1905. Today there are 5,500 strong in 110 councils in 28 dioceses.

In 1988 the Order launched a Marian Prayer Program featuring icons of Our Lady of Pochayiv to commemorate the millennial anniversary of Christianity in Ukraine. At the 123rd Supreme Convention in Chicago in 2005 Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Greek Catholic Church and former resident of the United as a child, appealed for the expansion of the Knights of Columbus to Ukraine. In 2009 leaders in the US, Canada, and Poland laid the groundwork, including the formation of a team to conduct First Degree ceremonies in Ukrainian. The initiation began in 2012 with councils in Kyiv and Lviv. Soon knights were acting as honor guards In 2013 Archbishop Shevchuk celebrated a Divine Liturgy in Kyiv to bless this expansion of the KofC in Ukraine. 

 In the war with Russian speaking separatists eastern Ukraine that began in 2014 the Knights were the first to respond to the appeal of Pope Francis to provide humanitarian aid such as to widowed families and soldiers with psychological trauma. They have established summer camps for children of veterans, visited veterans hospitals, and helped orphans and children with special needs. Today there are 2000 members in 40 local councils. 

As Archbishop Mokrzycki said, “We did not become Knights to gain fame, prestige or money, but to serve through deeds of love for the good of the Church, that is, for the community of people united by one faith and one baptism”. 

Ukraine State Deputy Yuriy Maletskiy thanked his brother Knights in Poland and throughout the world for their generosity and solidarity. Our principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism are truly manifested during these hostilities. Indeed, the principle of fraternity is known in adversity as never before.” This witness of brotherhood has attracted other Catholic men even in the midst of war. 

Freedom must always be preserved and guarded often at great cost. Freedom is not free. Be ready and PRAY, PRAY, PRAY. Don’t take freedom for granted; don’t abuse it. We can lose it. 

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