WARSAW, Poland — A Ukrainian bishop warned huge numbers of citizens could flee to Western countries during winter, and he appealed for continued international support in the face of a threatened “humanitarian catastrophe.”
“When Moscow began this war last February, millions headed for the borders — if it now destroys our energy supplies, there’ll be a similar wave of refugees,” said Auxiliary Bishop Jan Sobilo of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia.
“If everyone leaves, our own soldiers will ask who they’re supposed to be defending. That’s why we’re requesting continued help. This is a war not just for Ukraine’s independence, but to hold back a whole civilization of evil.”
Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure continued into December.
In a Dec. 2 interview, Bishop Sobilo said he was working with city officials to organize “heating points” in his church and residence so people could come to warm up.
However, he added that the parish’s one small generator now needed repairs, and he said local bakeries and food companies now lacked oil and diesel to maintain production.
“We face a huge humanitarian catastrophe — people in multi-story apartment blocks will have no chance of surviving when there’s no water, electricity or gas, and no lighting, lifts or toilets,” Bishop Sobilo said.
“Most are already exhausted with this war — and with a cold winter now beginning, many, especially those with children, are getting ready to leave. Power is also being switched off continually in Lviv and other western towns, so a huge wave of refugees will head for Poland and other countries.”
Aid organizations have highlighted worsening conditions in Ukraine’s towns and cities, where municipal rooms and tents have been equipped to provide heating, food, water and electricity to charge mobile phones.
The director of Caritas in Poland, Father Marcin Izycki, confirmed Nov. 30 that Church-funded reception centers were being readied for a new refugee influx.
Meanwhile, a Caritas-Spes director in Kharkiv, Father Wojciech Stasiewicz, told Vatican Radio Nov. 26 lack of electricity and heating had prevented children from attending online classes in city basements. He said the greatest need was for generators, power banks, wood stoves, medicines and warm clothes.
Bishop Sobilo said he planned to visit Ukrainian front-line positions to ascertain the needs of local civilians “now that frost and freezing temperatures have arrived.”
“We’re grateful to Western Catholics for help we’ve received over these nine months — especially in prayer, but also through material support enabling us to survive,” the bishop added.
“We’re now again asking Catholics, especially in the U.S., not to forget about this war, but to remain in solidarity since we have to keep going until the spring, ensuring enough people stay to keep our communities alive and our churches open.”
In Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said citizens were having to adjust to two-three hours of electricity per day, with little street lighting.
The project manager of Caritas-Spes, Olena Noha, told Austria’s Kathpress agency Nov. 29 people were being “worn down” by “darkness and constant fear of missiles,” with food now also running short in surrounding villages.
She added that Russian-controlled internet sites were encouraging Ukrainians to blame their government for the crisis, with claims “there is still electricity in the city center and among rich people.”
Bishop Sobilo said his church in besieged Zaporizhzhia was still providing daily Masses, but said church activities had ceased in Russian-occupied areas, where a third Ukrainian Catholic priest, Father Oleksander Bogomazy, was reported abducted by Russian troops Dec. 1 from his parish at Melitopol. In November, two other priests were taken by Russian troops.
“The Russians aim to destroy as much as possible, wherever they can, so life becomes impossible,” the bishop said.
“We are praying to God for His mercy — that we will be purified and saved, and that Russians may still be converted and see the terrible harm they are inflicting. When one person destroys another and robs him of his life, this cannot be a Christian act.”
Deacon Logusch urges prayers for Ukraine in winter months
By Tom Tracy | Catholic News Service
ST. LOUIS — Ukrainian Americans and newly arrived Ukrainian immigrants in the Midwest spent the last Sunday of November commemorating the 1930s Soviet-engineered famine in Ukraine.
They also heard a warning that history is likely repeating itself: Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to order attacks on Ukraine’s power grid and water supply as winter gets underway.
“There is a great deal to think about in terms of if Ukraine survives this war and, in spite of my faith, I begin that statement with the word ‘if,’” said Deacon Eugene Logusch, a pastoral administrator for both St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in south St. Louis County and at St. Mary’s Protection Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Madison, Illinois.
Deacon Logusch, a child of Ukrainian immigrants and now retired after a career in chemistry and teaching, told about 40 Ukrainian parishioners gathered at St. Mary’s Assumption Nov. 27 that he hopes the world fully appreciates the long-standing and well-established territorial ambitions of Russian expansionism.
He also said the Russian actions could eventually impact the U.S. directly — and certainly the rest of Eastern Europe and other regions — if left unchecked.
Analysts predict the freezing wintry weather blanketing Ukraine battlefields will influence the conflict. Both sides were already facing complications from heavy rain and mud.
“This is just like on the eve of World War II, the dangers facing the West, facing America and facing democracy were not just something over in Europe, and it took some time for that idea to gain the fullest support and understanding in the United States,” the deacon said.
He said he learned about the 1932-33 Holodomor famine from his parents. That famine is said to have killed millions of Ukrainians and was part of a wider Soviet famine that scholars have suggested was planned and executed by Joseph Stalin in order to thwart Ukrainian aspirations for independence.
Repeating a popular phrase that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, Deacon Logusch noted that Ukrainians throughout the world gather in late November to commemorate the Holodomor famine and to pray for peace in Ukraine.
“We are having to learn that truth very harshly right now,” he said, adding that he hoped others in the community would join them in prayer and remembrance in the coming months as Ukraine faces a difficult winter.