As the green leaves start to turn yellow and orange, we rejoice that the heat of the summer is passing, and we are entering the cozy months of Autumn. Warm fuzzy sweaters, crackling fires, hayrides, and pumpkin spice. The bustle of the summer months fades and the world seems to slow down and bask in the peacefulness of golden woodlands and falling leaves.
As inviting as this image is, it is merely a mirage, a distraction from the horrors and difficulties the people of Ukraine face at the hands of the unprecedented and unprovoked invasion of their peaceful and sovereign nation by the Russian Federation. The invading forces have systematically and intentionally brough havoc and destruction upon the innocent civilians of Ukraine. In the first months of the invasion, they entered villages and focused on torturing, raping, terrorizing, and murdering simple people who were just living their quiet lives. In the following months the Russian forces have continued to focus on destroying civilian infrastructure – highways, roads, bridges, train tracks and dams, all with a final goal of isolating and slowly killing off the Ukrainian population through hunger, decease, or outright bombings of their homes, markets, and churches.
On the Feast day of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Russian missiles aimed at and hit civilians who were out and about enjoying the sunny day after church services. Fruit brought to be blessed in church now rolled along blood-stained streets, as the earthly remains of women and children lay on the sidewalks and in their cars, some still holding their baskets with apples and grapes.
Just a few days ago dozens were killed, and many others wounded when a Russian missile struck a busy market in the city of Kostyantynivka. People were simply out shopping, buying produce to prepare their evening meals, planning menus for their children’s lunches as they returned to school, purchasing freshly picked corn and tomatoes. Now many of those same parents and children lie in hospitals fighting for their lives, suffering third-degree burns, having lost limbs, their sight, and barely holding on to their lives, while trying to comprehend the disaster than has entered their lives.
From the start the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, her hierarchs, clergy and faithful have come to the aid of their ancestral homeland and her people. Over the many months this assistance has included food, shelter, medical care, and support for displaced people. Just this week with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the UOC of the USA, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel initiated a transfer of $30,000 dollars generously donated by the faithful of the Church, as well as local American communities, to help alleviate the suffering faced by the people in Eastern and Central Ukraine.
These funds were a Godsend. Two trucks were filled with food, water, and medical supplies and immediately dispatched to the decimated cities that had suffered Russian missile strikes. Other supplies were purchased including uninforms for the military personnel as well as medical supplies, food, and water and forwarded to the men and women defending freedom on the frontlines.
Many injured, maimed, and internally displaced persons have fled their homes and slowly and painfully made their ways to larger cities, seeking shelter and assistance. Having found simple lodgings these people merely exist because they have no access to modern amenities. They live day by day, with meager supplies.
The city of Dnipro has warmly welcomed all the internally displaced persons. Working with Metropolitan Serhiy of the Donetsk Eparchy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the UOC of USA has been able to join in these efforts.
Hope has been renewed as desperate individuals have been shown mercy through the donations of the Church in the form of additional medical supplies, and orthopedic wheelchairs for the newly handicapped and maimed children. iPads were delivered to the kids, allowing them a momentary return to childhood as they were able to access the tools, they need to continue their schoolwork, as well as keep in touch with their families who are far away.
Microwaves and vacuum cleaners were provided to families in need allowing them to live in clean and healthy environments as they try to piece together torn apart lives. It is these simple, mundane items that bring a sense of regularity to chaotic and unpredictable lives and are priceless to those who gain a sense of normalcy they have not experienced in months.
The need is great. While you enjoy your pumpkin-spice latte and wrap yourself up in a fuzzy and warm sweater, consider making another donation to the Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief Fund of the UOC of the USA, and bring that same sense of coziness and peace to families who cannot even remember a time when they were not frightened, in pain, or hungry.