Life after ATO. Chaplains’ mission is continued

8 October 2014, 14:24 | Reports | view photo | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Tetiana Kalenychenko

kaska.jpgThe first veterans are returning from ATO (Anti-Terroristic Operation). Most of them saw their families during 5-7 days, before they moved back into the battle. All of them have changed, as has changed their country, which they all have been protecting. But they didn’t become embittered. They just became different. Next to them, every day and every minute stay those, who have gained their place anew, without whom soldiers feel grievously – chaplains.

Before the war, many commanders considered themselves as believers, but they had not been active in their faith. “Nowadays, it has changed”, - tells Sergii Dmitriev, a chaplain and vice-chairman of the Synodal Department of Social Services and Charity of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate. During the spring, the doubt was dominating: whether the military did need such help or not. At present, commanders are convinced of such need and are praying every day themselves. They do pray not only for their own families or homeland, but for every soldier, for whom they are responsible to his mother, wife, and friends.

After the comeback of military from ATO, credence to priests have raised significantly. Such credibility opens access to the hearts and souls of fighters. Someone needs to remember about simple explication, that not only devotion is wanted, but also the Eucharist, explaining all the aspects of spiritual life.

“On the firing range, which we visited last time, the two military groups appear: those who were in ATO and those who had not been fired upon before. These new fighters still hesitate to speak with the priest and/or to ask him something. However the veterans, those whom we have known since March, - they all have become akin, opened and fully aware of that only faith does support them. The main cardinal change has become just one: they all have begun to feel false very clearly. That is why if someone wears a mask or wants to hide the truth, they just would not listen to him”, - shares father Sergii.

With the humanitarian help, priests brought the musicians, who played for warriors in the Kherson fields. It is important support for fighters, because music not only distracts, but it cures, allows expressing emotions and having an hour break from constant nervous tension. Among the chaplains, there was Taras Kotsyuba, a Greek-Catholic priest from Drogobych, who had stayed with the military in the ATO for about two months.

He said that war has changed everyone and allowed to give greater clarity to their thoughts and life positions. The soldiers did not want him to go, because they got accustomed to the priest nearby. The service lasted round-the-clock: when chaplain accompanied soldiers into a mission, when he met them coming back, counting each one by eyes, and when he performed a funeral service for those killed in action. The maximum acknowledgement, which a confessor can receive - the words from own combatants: “it’s our father”.

“One fellow came up, who is two meters in height and one meter in shoulders. I look into his eyes and realize: what will happen now. Usually, a person just breaks down and cries. When we complete the conversation, he is saying the keywords: “if someone finds out that I was crying, I don’t know what I’ll do with you…” These guys are really like tempered steel. But whatever they are, - they are all human beings, and they all need to go through these moments. That is why I have learned to appreciate man’s tears”, - tells father Taras.

Broadened mission

The mission of chaplains is not limited just by service within the military. It is also requests from the soldiers’ relatives and delivery of reports that someone has been missing in action. Occasionally, particularly difficult situations do take place: when a priest is receiving a call from the mother, who just lost her the only 20-years old son in the ATO. She cannot accept the loss. Then, the priest is simply staying close to her for a couple of days, because words are not enough. Not everyone is ready to hear any speeches about patriotism, when the only descendant died, but parents even did not receive his body and belongings.

“While fighters restrained their emotions previously, nowadays they are ready to talk about all of their fears, terrible thoughts, hopes, and dreams”, - continues father Sergii: “The term "gray" disappeared for them; there is only white or black; the third does not exist. They slipped off their masks, became absolutely honest and direct, and openly can talk about their weaknesses. They are true heroes; they will never tell about their exploits on the battlefield, about which we can learn through the third parties. Such people are not fooled by simple promises or offerings; they do know the price for every act”.

Volunteers – “shadow of army”

Volunteers are changing side by side with military people. Combatants acknowledge that, without volunteer help, they would long ago either die or be frozen in those deserted plains. Civil activists always stay close and, in incredible way, are finding all the necessary stuff: military imagers, hats, thermal underwear, food supply, medicaments, etc. In a short time, they have become experts in the areas, which one could never think of. Every help is significant for soldiers – even 5 UAH or one apple will prove to the soldiers that for them are waiting, they are needed, and that they are shedding blood for a good reason.

“We (volunteers) have just found that a military brigade is moving to Mykolaiv, and received a request from combatants for certain things. Just in one day, local activists gathered everything needed, once they found out that it was for the legendary 30th brigade, which had long held the defense near Savur-Mogyla. This has been happening constantly, and the volunteers are trying to find other activists for most help in different regions, cooperating nationwide. We have become the one organism”, - said chaplain.

Sometimes, you can see especially touching gifts. One of the officers received a child’s drawing, onto which the child pinned a bill of 10 UAH. He has been carrying that with him as the most precious treasure. On the other painted picture, soldiers found attached chestnut and candy. Military paramedic, who has been saving lives during the cruelest battles, never separates from a little toy hippopotamus, which he always carries in a pocket.

Politics as a torero’s red mantle

The only one theme can provoke aggression – politics. To hear swear-words, one can just ask a soldier: "for whom you are going to vote?” Currently, the combatants do not trust anyone and are very skeptical of politicians. The fighters understand: who is truly helping them and staying close, on the background of everyday political promises from the screens and podiums. At the same time, they still do hope that future elections could change something personally for them – bringing peace or, at least, some relief.

We should not avoid painful issues. In the ATO, there often have been cases of commander’s betrayal, desertion, and contradictory orders. Chaplain, who stays with them, passes everything through himself. Then, he goes back to the city, where there are first veterans, maimed in war: “We cannot remain silent about them. Now, there is a big problem and threat, worse than after Afghan war. In Novogad-Volynsk, where based 30th brigade, some soldiers are on vacation, others came back home. They do often drink, lose all credibility and feel strange, needless, feel themselves as toys in the wrong hands. That is why the most important role belongs to psychologists, volunteers, and other people, who should be alongside not only in a critical situation”.

Psychologist – irrelevant?

Father Sergii adds that we must rethink the psychologists’ approaches, which are willing to help. According to him, no one should approach the combatants and say: "I am a psychologist and now I am going to save you". Soldiers would not take those seriously and will be trying to get rid of them. Contrariwise, help should be proposed differently: teaching military to help other people, giving them all the tools of help and support, with which they could help themselves.

At the same time, some defenders are preparing to return to the war hot spots, while others are seeking money for treatment and often are feeling abandoned. Every day, they see different parallel life, in which they could not find their place. “You can just count: how many billboards are there in Kyiv, with political advertisement, and how many of those are with just thankful words to our defenders? Often, I hear a question from them: “Why does God allow all that? Why does our society do nothing?” I always answer: “It is not what God allows; it is a creation of human hands”. I do not want to see our army abandoned, do not want to see our veterans, who were left one-on-one with their grief. We must be close to them and help them, because after that, a new generation will come. That new generation should learn these lessons and understand that this is a common pain, because we are one people, one church”, - summarizes father Sergii.

While going to the firing range, the author of this article was scared to see anger in the eyes of akin fighters, their disappointment and loss. However, other feelings do glow in their souls. Hereafter, they are capable to smile and make volunteers to laugh, to believe in miracles and to wait for the day, when they will wake up at home. Since they returned as humans. Only we could help them to remain the same.

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    • bopa | 8 June 2020, 11:43

      То перераховані факти ви називаєте "фантазиями и ночными кошмарами"? Чому викладену інформацію ви "Очередная статья нижайшего интеллектуального уровня"? У вас

    • Slava43 | 4 June 2020, 13:46

      Це жодна агітація. На Буковині казали :»Мойше герехт, Сури герехт».

    • Slava43 | 4 June 2020, 13:39

      За часів союза, УПЦ підлягала моіковському патріярхату, примусово. Від незалежності УПЦ старалась отримати незалежність від Москви. Тепер, коли Україна має ТОМОС та незалежність то Лавру потрібно

    • Стефан | 2 June 2020, 15:54

      Последние события показали глубокий кризис РПЦ МП, где только отдельные редкие священнослужители твёрдо исповедуют Православную Веру, как схиигумен отец Сергий Романов, которого сейчас травят

    • Рокитне | 2 June 2020, 12:34

      Це добре було б.

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