I am back in Lviv, four days before the observance of the Baptism of Jesus according to the Old Julian Calendar and nine days after the Latin Rite observance of the Epiphany. Ballistic missiles had been launched by the Russians yesterday throughout Ukraine. Particularly hard hit was the Southeastern city of Dnipro where a residential structure was targeted with significant civilian casualties.
Kyiv, our point of departure, was also hit but the train left only one half hour behind schedule. Life goes on.
In fact there is much cause for optimism despite the recent bombings throughout Ukraine including the Western cities Lviv and Ivano Frankivsk. Children were singing Ukrainian songs in the Kyiv Metrograd yesterday. Western tanks and Patriot anti-missile systems are on the horizon.
Ukrainians indeed are an indomitable people. Sure they complain as much as anyone, but they invariably manage to grasp the positive. One of their favourite phrases is that heroes never die despite the fact that Ukraine’s heroes are dying every day.
My wife spoke with a friend in Kyiv who told her that her brother had just been killed at the front. They decided not to tell her mother but they did tell her father. The heartbroken father died the following day. The mother remains alive hoping to see her child again.
This whole year has been an Epiphany for many. The previous day I met with first year students at the Kyiv National University. We devised a strategy for victory and the dismemberment of the world’s last empire. They were very excited to contribute. We spoke about America as well. They were grateful but circumspect. They felt that America owed them something because it was at America’s insistence that Ukraine surrendered the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal.
I assured them that America and Americans were with them. We also spoke about their own future. They were proud to be part of the Ukrainian nation, not only because of its manifest courage but also because it so strongly believes in genuine freedom and democracy.
Ukrainians believe that they are saving the world and they have accepted this mission. They are grateful for the support they receive from the very people they believe they are saving and whose battles as well as their own they fight. Still some would be allies are puzzling.
Perhaps not so much Hungary with its fascist leader, but still a member of both NATO and the EU and with a diaspora of both nations respectively located.
Still certainly Belgium seems an aberration, selling out for diamonds despite being the seat of both the EU and NATO and benefiting therefrom financially as well as politically. Germany and France have been less than fully supportive, still perhaps more than in the past. Israel has been a quandary since Iran Israel’s worst nightmare is a staunch ally of the Russian aggressor. Unfortunately, Israel is notorious for its self interest, but here it appears to be blind as well.
The Ukrainian European diaspora has been less than vocal. A recent conference of European Ukrainians held in Serbia failed to address the less than meaningful support for Ukraine by some European countries. Serbia, of course is a known quality, often referred to as the Russians of the Balkans and notorious for war crimes.
Still the Ukrainian European diaspora has seemed not only powerless, but downright inactive. The Ukrainian World Congress ostensibly maintains a Mission in Brussels with little efficacy.
On Sunday I went to St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lviv and prayed four times for the Pope as is prescribed by the Ukrainian liturgy, asking for God’s mercy. In the past I had been dismayed by these incantations because of the Pope’s lack of tangible concern for the people of Ukraine, but I have had an Epiphany regarding the Pope.
Perhaps Pope Francis will have one too.
As the liturgical Christmas season draws to an end as well as my time with my Ukrainian brethren in Ukraine, I am optimistic but concerned. The New Year offers much hope, and many challenges. The feast of the Epiphany, the coming of the Magi and the Baptism of Christ provides much focus. 2023 could be the year of a lasting global Epiphany free of war crimes, aggression, tyrants and empires.
Image: By President.gov.ua, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75628728