Chaplain Mykola: For patriotic priests, the “front line” represents all of Ukraine!

Father Mykola Medynsky  

International, More, Peace to Ukraine, Ukraine, War in the Donbas

Article by: Bohdana Kostiuk

The Christmas period is a busy time for military chaplains serving Mass and the sacraments to thousands of Ukrainian soldiers deployed in Eastern Ukraine. Chaplain Mykola Medynsky, representing the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), is spending his fourth Christmas with the soldiers and their relatives. We talked to Father Mykola about religion, chaplaincy, and the spiritual defense of Ukraine.

– The number one mission for anyone who loves Ukraine is protecting Ukraine, but not only in the military sphere. I’m talking about the spiritual defense of our country, because Russia is conducting a hybrid war against all of us, spreading propaganda about the “values” of the “Russian world”. We must fight them for the sake of our fellow citizens and prevent the so-called “values” proposed and spread by the Kremlin from taking root in Ukrainian society.

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We’ve also run into a lot of hypocrisy propagated by the “Russian world” in Western Ukraine, even in Kolomyya! I’m not accusing all the priests of UOC-MP parishes of spreading anti-Ukrainian ideology, but, unfortunately, too many of them support the ideas disseminated by Russian imperial Orthodoxy. So, for any Ukrainian priest who’s a patriot, the “front line” represents all of Ukraine!

– But do you have any proof of Kremlin’s support to the UOC-MP?

– Yes, unfortunately we do. We often hear these priests say: “We don’t get involved in politics!”, but their sermons and actions testify to the opposite. In addition, we know that some clerics of the UOC-MP have been working with politicians who support the Kremlin, and others openly sympathize with communist ideals, ever since the Soviet era. The Russian church has always served the Russian empire, and virtually nothing has changed since those days.

However, the psychology and ideology of peoples – neighbours of Russia – who chose to liberate themselves from Russian influence, including the church, have changed. I hope and pray that this war will end… and Ukraine will win.

– How can you fight this?

– My chaplain friends and I, we want and offer mutual agreement and understanding. We talk about it during Mass, and tell our people what’s really happening in Eastern Ukraine. There are many soldiers in my congregation in Kolomyya. I try to support them and their families. It’s important for Ukrainian soldiers serving along the front lines to have this sense of understanding… sometimes, when I read prayers or offer Mass, I see that not only Christians from different confessions, but even non-believers and Muslims, pray with me. They stand quietly in a corner and talk to the Lord according to their religious practices.

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The boys pray for their comrades-in-arms and ask Our Lord to give them spiritual and physical strength to defend their country. In general, front-line soldiers mostly pray for their mates (those who are fighting along the contact line and those who’ve been wounded or amputated), for victory, for Ukraine, for their families, and for their children to grow up in a peaceful country, and for a brighter future in their Ukraine. This is the moment that unites us all, a moment of true love and togetherness.

– How do you feel about celebrating the Nativity of Christ on December 25 and January 7, according to the new law?

– As I said earlier in another interview, this is a good solution as it balances the rights of the faithful of different religious denominations and unifies all Ukrainians. This is also important for the Church, as it opens the doors to an interesting ecumenical dialogue, and encourages priests and faithful of different denominations to communicate with one another.

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar (1933-2017) (left) and Mykola Medynsky (right)

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar (1933-2017) (left) and Mykola Medynsky (right)

– In December, you held master classes with students in Kyiv, and also organized an exhibition. What are your impressions?

– First, we organized an art exhibition in Kyiv called “Від руйнації до життя” (From destruction to life). The exhibit included my own artwork, war photos by Ivanna-Kalyna Motyk and frontline films shot by director Serhiy Lysenko. When you see the photos and the documentary film, you share the soldier’s spirit, you perceive this spirit, and also see the war from the inside, what’s happening in this “grey zone”. I can see how people change when they see war photos or documentary scenes: they feel somewhat closer to our defenders, to what’s really happening in the war zone. For some, it’s not a very pleasant feeling. The war isn’t something completely alien anymore. The war isn’t as far as you may think… Such exhibitions and workshops with young kids, displaying shells, shrapnel, for example, creating paintings on these killer weapons, drawing images of peace… this is an important educational moment.

You see, Kremlin propaganda tries to convince the whole world that Ukrainians are the “underdogs” that we have no historic background, no cultural traditions…. But, that’s an outright lie! We’re the descendants of an ancient people that have not lost their memory or nationhood. This memory is encrypted in patterns and ornaments of Ukrainian embroidery, pysankas, art, etc. I transfer it to my own artwork and teach it to kids whenever I have a free moment.

Father Mykola talks about the exhibition “Від руйнації до життя” (From destruction to life), in Ukrainian (2.06 min)

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Source: Radio Liberty

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