Local Ukrainians pray for peace, donate support
UTICA — Parishioners of St. Volodymyr the Great Ukrainian Catholic Church and community supporters joined Ukrainian churches all over the world in praying for the end of Russia’s war on Ukraine last week as Friday, Feb. 24, marked the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The event was held at St. Volodymyr the Great Ukrainian Catholic Church at 4 Cottage Place in Utica. There was a reception following the ceremony at the Ukrainian Hall, at 6 Cottage Place, for attendees to talk, eat and donate to Ukrainian support efforts.
The prayer vigil was led by Very Rev. Michael Bundz, pastor at St. Volodymyr, and Very Rev. Ivan Semko of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Herkimer.
Zynowij Jackiw, a trustee for St. Volodymyr, spoke about the history of Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, which dates back centuries.
“One year ago, military experts predicted that Ukraine’s army would lay down their weapons and surrender to Russian forces within 48 to 72 hours of the invasion,” Jackiw said. “Ukraine’s army proved these experts wrong. Their tenacious resistance, their resourcefulness and creativity surprised all these analysts. Ukrainian forces have won repeated and decisive victories.”
Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union from 1922 to its fall in 1991. From 1932 to 33, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin orchestrated a famine, known as the Holodomor, on the Ukrainian people, killing anywhere from 3.5 to 5 million Ukrainians.
In 1991, following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Ukrainian people held a referendum and voted to become an independent country, for the first time. However, as Ukraine has continued to exert its independence, Russian President Vladimir Putin felt threatened and in 2014, he annexed Crimea and promoted a separatist revolt in Donbas, Ukraine, which resulted in the deaths of over 14,000 people.
Then, in 2022, in an attempt to exert power over Ukraine, Putin launched a full-scale invasion, which was met by intense resistance from the Ukrainian people. The U.S. and other countries provided aid in the form of funding, equipment, weapons, ammunition and training, to help Ukrainians keep fighting.
The war has left tens of thousands dead, has caused 8 million people to flee their homes and has displaced 8 million Ukrainians within the country. Ukrainian officials are reporting that Russian troops have abducted nearly 14,000 Ukrainian children and placed them with Russian families in Russia to erase their Ukrainian heritage.
“This war will have a devastating impact on the lives and futures of Ukraine’s 6 million school-age children,” Jackiw said. “They have been robbed of their families, they have been robbed of their safety and stability, their friends are gone. What hope do these children have for their future?”
Jackiw thanked the members of the community and local organizations for their support in Ukrainian aid efforts.
“With the help of our wonderful parishioners, numerous volunteers and members of the greater Utica community, this past year, we’ve collected over $175,000 from food sales and donations. All proceeds have been used to purchase medical and humanitarian aid for our homeland,” Jackiw said.
Dr. Ivan Shvachuk of Ellis Medicine in Schenectady, attended the prayer vigil on Friday. Shvachuk is from Ukraine and served as an army medic in the 1970s but has since graduated from medical school, practiced medicine in Ukraine and moved to New York.
“I have friends and colleagues who work on the front lines, as doctors, and we communicated and they asked for help, so I’m helping from my hospital,” he said. “I’m sending wound care, surgical supplies, personal care for soldiers and civilians.”
The most recent shipment Shvachuk sent out was three weeks ago, and he sent 10 tons of medical supplies. Overall, Shvachuk has sent over $1 million in medical supplies to Ukraine. “It’s not donations, it’s taking from the heart and giving to people who are in need,” Shvachuk said.
“God willing, this war … will come to an end. However, our support must continue to help remediate the long-term effects of this conflict,” Jackiw said. “Ukraine’s infrastructure, her health systems, her utility systems must be rebuilt to ensure recovery for the country and its people.”
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