Two Jesuits report from the Ukraine front—standing up to Putin and serving refugees in Poland

By Kevin Clarke, 28 October 2022
Irpin, Ukraine - 5 March 2022: Ukrainian soldier stands on the check point to the city Irpin near Kyiv during the evacuation of local people under the shelling of the Russian troops. Image: Shutterstock.


‘Peace is a matter of justice’

“Peace is a matter of justice, and justice is a matter of truth,” Andriy Zelinskyy, S.J., a lecturer at Ukrainian Catholic University and a Ukrainian army chaplain said. “We are responsible for Mr. Putin. That’s our collective responsibility…. So let’s deal with this.”

Ukraine and the West cannot knuckle under to Putin’s nuclear blackmail, Father Zelinskyy insisted. “There are no other choices,” he said, except to “pray for him” and “pray for the conversion of Russia. I don’t know what else to do.”

“Let’s not be afraid. This is what Jesus taught us, and sometimes we forget about this. ‘Be not afraid:’ If you’re on the part of truth, if you’re on the part of good, everything else is in God’s hands.”

Bracing for a new refugee crisis

While Father Zelinskyy remains resolute in Kyiv, a fellow Ukrainian Jesuit In Poland, Vitaliy Osmolovskyy, continues his work with a Jesuit-sponsored assistance program for Ukrainian refugees, helping them settle into new homes, find new jobs and, for some of them, begin new lives. Most of the refugees still hope to return to Ukraine someday, Father Osmolovskyy said, but an increasing number of the families he is working with, perhaps as much as 20 percent, now plan to settle permanently in Poland. Their children are safe and enrolled in Polish schools, and they see little chance of a near-term end to the war, he explained.

In addition to assisting with survival needs, housing and job placement, the Jesuits in Poland have been offering psychological counseling and educational programming for refugee children. Father Osmolovskyy added that the Jesuits hope to one day support reconciliation and peace building. There is no point to begin that work now, he said, explaining that first “the offender has to ask for forgiveness.”

The refugee experience has driven some to hold more tightly to their faith, he said. Others have abandoned it, feeling abandoned by God themselves. “[John] The Evangelist says, ‘God is love,’ although in such moments, it is hard to see it,” Father Osmolovskyy said.

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Kevin Clarke is America’s chief correspondent and the author of Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out (Liturgical Press).

With thanks to America and Kevin Clarke, where this article originally appeared.


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