From Fr. Oleksiy (LCI 1999-2000) with permission to publish:
Thank you dear Bobette for being worried about us. Sorry I didn’t write back faster. It was difficult to express thoughts and feelings at that time together with a heavy heart and an anxious mind because of this heartbreaking stuff, things related to war. My wife Alya and I and our six kids are in a village near Lviv (very close- 20 minutes to town).
I can share the experience of 26 days of war.
First of all I didn’t know I could be without sleep for five days. Now I know I can. While warplanes are flying, you can’t sleep with gun shots and an air alarm. You can’t sleep because your six kids have to sleep. You don’t know how to save and protect them. You just have to pray and wait for the day. You’re afraid of the night. It was really scary.
The second thing is to see and hear for a whole week a stream of cars with people fleeing war. It’s really hard to accept. It’s hard to accept how to pray, to learn, to work and to sleep at a time when the air alarm is heard two, three times a day and night.
What helps the most in these days? First of all, the fulfillment of duties, self-discipline of prayer and work, and of course a beloved wife.
I saw how a lot of people from Poland, Portugal, Italy, from evangelical churches, not just Catholics, have been pouring out some funds and sending them over here, which is amazing. They’re just supporting us.
Churches have donated to various volunteer organizations and have sent funds directly. Volunteers have used the money to buy food, diapers, mattresses for displaced families to sleep on, and other resources from the stores that are still open.
The very first day of the invasion, the sirens were already going off even in our villages near Lviv, people were panicked and they would run. One of the first places they would run was Poland, second places were churches.
As war broke out, seats in the church began to fill rapidly with those who had not opened the door of a church in the last two years because of the pandemic. We have prayers (rosary, Sorokousty [memorial prayers for the deceased], Way of the Cross, Liturgy) every day.
Parishioners have been organizing for prayer so that someone is always praying. As families from shell-shocked eastern and southern Ukrainian cities have streamed in seeking refuge, a team of community volunteers, have mobilized. In recent days, most of the churches have become safety nets.
People from the community have come by, bringing jars of food and other goods, for those in need.
In our villages displaced families have found shelter in the “people’s house” near the church. It’s safe, it’s warm, people can actually lie down. There is water, both cold and hot.
Very often about two or three times a day, air raid sirens go off and everyone scrambles for cover; unfortunately we don’t have a bomb shelter.
Аnother thing is Ukrainian families separating as women and children flee battle zones while husbands and fathers stay behind to fight. Across the borders in neighboring countries of Poland and elsewhere, Christians have converted churches and seminaries into places for displaced people to stay.
We can see a spiritual parallel with a time of fasting as the Church begins its observation of Lent, a 40-day period leading up to Easter.
But after the fast, the church enters a time of celebration: As Jesus died and rose again, so we also believe that we will also with Him rise again. So no matter what happens, we have hope. We have Jesus leading us. We have nothing else.
What else can I say? I have a beautiful prayer that reveals our feelings now.
Come, Lord, and fill us with your Holy Presence. Let us rest and be at peace.
Let us feel your protection.
Let us feel as we are under the shadow of your wings: “safe, hidden, and secure in you”.
We pray, Father, please take our fear away and give us your peace that surpasses all understanding.
You know that our lives are in your hands.
Our trust and our hope are on you alone, Father.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit we altogether pray!
Pray for us sinners!