With the war in Ukraine entering its 20th month, the main news channels have slowed the reporting of the atrocities still being committed against the innocent people of the country. However, interest and support has not waned. Local communities are still interested in what is happening and wish to offer support to Ukraine.
One such group is the Reformed Church in America, which stressed Christian unity, and therefore, sent a Commission to the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, to hear the latest news about the ongoing war of Russia against Ukraine.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA, and President of the Consistory, happily greeted the group and took them on a tour of the Metropolia Center. As Christians we know that our greatest help comes from the Lord, so the visit began at the St. Andrew Memorial Church. Standing beneath the dark and somber sky and gesturing upward to the cross at the pinnacle of the dome, His Eminence explained that this church was built as the first memorial in the USA to the victims of the Holodomor. He continued by explaining that the Holodomor, “Murder by Death”, was a genocide perpetrated by the Soviet government against the people of Ukraine in 1932-33, where over 7 million individuals perished from hunger even when the soil of Ukraine produced a bumper crop of wheat that year. He explained how the genocide was hidden from the world, and how the corpses were unceremoniously gathered and buried in mass graves, leaving behind furnished homes and fertile soil ready for families to move in. Most deaths took place on the eastern border of Ukraine, and the empty cities, towns and villages were quickly populated by Russians who arrived by the trainload. His listeners frowned as they realized that this is why today that portion of the nation is inhabited by many Russians and Pro-Russian sympathizers.
They gazed upwards at the tall, impressive structure as Archbishop Daniel further explained that the church is built tall and narrow to symbolize a memorial candle, lit in memory of all those who lost their lives to the Holodomor, but, also to all those who have since perished in their fight for freedom from their aggressive neighbor, Russia.
As the group contemplated the great and tragic loss of life, the dark sky began to weep sending down a soft drizzle to those gazing upward. His Eminence motioned and led the group upward to enter the church where they were amazed by the beautiful mosaic of Christ over the Altar, the numerous icons, and sense of majesty they felt gazing upward to the tall dome above. Having prayed for the safety of Ukraine, those assembled exited and walked over to the Consistory Building where they were once again in awe in the Atrium with the large icon of the Birth-Giver of God, the tall ceiling and the many icons and historic items. Their attention was brought to the little tree that had been placed to the side of the atrium upon which fluttered countless paper angels. Archbishop Daniel explained that these angels were created by the youth of the Church from all over the USA and are angels guarding Ukraine.
As the visitors settled around the large conference table in the library, His Eminence gave them a short synopsis of the various ministries and institutions of the UOC of the USA, including the Ukrainian Historic and Education Center and the Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, which oversees the library in which they now sat.
Meeting with the visitors in Metropolitan John Theodorovich Seminary Library, Archbishop Daniel shared the latest news from Ukraine, explaining that the bombings and terrorist activities have not eased, and with the winter months quickly approaching the humanitarian disaster will only grow exponentially. The donations being made towards the UOC of the USA Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief Fund have dwindled over the past months as people tire of the war, and it is no longer hitting the headlines. The conversation explored together options for what RCA support of the UOC of the USA and the Ukrainian community could look like, including options for financial support and actions of solidarity, such as the use of the RCA's voice at the World Council of Churches. The Commission was encouraged "not to let the lamp of support for Ukraine stop burning" by continuing to tell the story and reminding one another of this war -- and so the need for prayer -- as long as it may continue.
His Eminence asked that in addition to prayers, that the congregation keep the flame alive, and that they work to “keep the lamp of support for Ukraine burning.” Keep talking about Ukraine. Help keep people aware of the situation and the need for assistance – material and spiritual.
Promising to speak about Ukraine at their gatherings and meetings and ensuring Archbishop Daniel of their continued prayers on the behalf of Ukraine, the group departed, taking with them little icons, a deeper understanding of the situation in Ukraine, and brightly glowing lamp of support for Ukraine which they will shine before the world.