Spiritual wars

29 December 2014, 15:08 | Reports | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Nellie Werner


When in winter the blessing was granted from one of the stages of Maidan not only by priests of three Christian denominations, but also by  the deputy mufti of Muslims of Crimea and a Jewish rabbi - it seemed a miracle of unity of all religions for the sake of the victory over the common enemy.


Now, during the anti-terrorist operation, for many months the fighters of all creeds serve side by sidein the ranks of Ukrainian troops. All of them left the quiet life of believers, having stood up to defend their country against the aggressor in arms. LB.uais clearing out how they have got to the war,what difficulties they face performing the rites in combat conditions, and whether their religious precepts are contrary to military service.

Asher Yosef Cherkasky, a Jew, Senior Sergeant of Dnepr-1, the Interior Ministry special forces  regiment

Asher Yosef, as befits an orthodox Jew, has a long beard and a t-shirt featuring “a Jewish Banderite”.  A native of Feodosia, he managed to live alternately in the Crimea and in Dnepropetrovsk, where two of his three childrenattended a religious school. He has made the last decision to move after the annexation of the Crimea as he could not live in the occupied territories.

“When we learned that the Russian troops are ready to cross the border, my mother sent us on her initiative. She said: “Go, guys!” We were very anxious and came here, to the children. Our family got united and wecould safely have gone to Israel. But fleeing is a shame - we decided to stay here. And when I learned that it was possible to join a volunteer battalion, I did it. It is a civic duty and the duty of every man who is really a man - to protect one’s family and children,” says Asher. He enlisted in the battalion, now Dnepr-1 regiment, at a stage of its formation. A couple of months he served as a volunteer and officially joined the staff in August.

While in Israel, most Orthodox Jews are trying to dodge military service, their Ukrainian coreligionists defend their country by force of arms. He says that religion does not forbid him to defend himself, and gives an example from the Torah: even when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity and began to rebuild Jerusalem, they both built and defended the city.

- On the contrary, it is necessary to do so. If you know that someone is going to kill you, you have to defend yourself. In Judaism, there is such a thing as “measure for measure” (MidahKeNegedMidah - one of the laws of the Higher Justice in the Talmud). Its correct interpretation is this: you must apply adequate measures, including protection. If you are preparing an attack, you must attack first.

Asher quickly became known thanks to television. After several interviews some unknown persons called his mother in Crimea with threats: “One cannot call these creatures humans,” the fighter gets angry.

He does not complain of field conditions. Religion allows Jewsnot to observe Sabbath, if they execute the orders of commanders at war. However,Asher is trying to stick to tradition as much as possible. “I received kosher wine for Kiddush and candlesfrom the guys. I also have Siddur around me - a prayer book, and kfilin and shawls,so in this respect I am staffed,” the fighter says.

The only difficulty is the kosher diet, which prohibits a range of products and their combinations. However, all the plants and cereals, as well as fish are considered kosher a priori, so Asher often steamssome buckwheat or pasta in a mug with boiling water and eats them with canned fish and vegetables. However, the soldier recalls how, being on the front line, he was forced to reduce the level of kosher - under fire there was noopportunity to choose food. Hegot overcooled in the trenches, got problems with his legs, and if he did not eat enough, hejustwould not be able to fight. “If there is a question, eat or die, then you have to eat,” says Asher, who thoroughly knows the rules of Judaism.

However, once a friend from Israel sent money to Kharkiv volunteers, who brought a special kosher food (withrabbinate seal) for the soldiers of Dnepr-1: thereare a lot of Jews in the regiment. Their names are also on the lists of the dead and seriously wounded. Although Asher has not met any more orthodox Jews at war.

During the conversation with LB.ua he was on outpatient treatment in Dnipropetrovsk and was getting ready to be discharged - he was looking forward to the day when he finally returns to service.

He spoke succinctly about his injury: “There was a fight. We were approached and shelled from grenade launchers –so we responded. I was standing near the wall of a private house and was shooting. The grenade exploded at an arm’s length above my head. Due to the slope of the roof, its fragments went the other direction and did not hit me. And I have sustained brain concussion.”

The Jews have no controversies with representatives of other religions in the regiment.

We have good relations with Muslims, with the guys from our ‘Crimea’ company. We jokingly welcome each other, they tell me, “Shalom Aleichem” and I tell them: “Vaaleykum salaam” - Asher imitates Arabic accent, laughing. “We are very good friends, and we have no division by nationality. Although, of course, it is quite natural that everyone is drawn to those who are closer to him. But in principle, we do everything together. We are like one big family –it cannot be other way, as in the fight you will not see into what nationality you are and what your religion is. We just need to be together, and then we really will win a victory. “

Asher is confident about the victory. In his philosophical and religious perspective, this war, in fact is a real struggle between light and darkness.

“Darkness is constantly somehow materialized in this world. It gets planted in our neighbors, friends, people we meet on our way. And it exists in every manin different concentrations. For example, now much evil is concentrated now in Putin, and in the whole top of the Kremlin, and unfortunately, in many residents of Russia.

- I believe that we win,because we are fighting for our land and for justice. We fulfill our constitutional duty; we are faithful to the oath. We protect our families and our land. And now the formation of the Ukrainian nation is ongoing. There exists the American nation, which consists of a multitude of nations, just likethe Ukrainian nation. Finally we all have become Ukrainians.

Previously Asher was an entrepreneur;he was engaged in supplying industrial equipment. But he gave up business for a long time because of his military service. He refers to his partners all business calls, and consequently he does not get the usual share of profits: for all the time the companies have paid him little money several times from those transactions that took place. He lives on a minimum wage of an Interior regiment fighter: about 4 thousand UAH. He is very grateful to the volunteers who help ineverything,provide him with military uniform, ammunition, food. “When people give away the shirt of their back in order that we could normally fight – it’s worth it,”the fighter complimented volunteers.

“When I was here in hospital, I was taken out a couple of times for concerts. Of course, it was difficult to endure a loud sound after concussion. But when the children in Gorky theatre made a musical performance for the ATO fighters, a very beautiful one, I just wanted again to the front line to protect these children.

At the end of the interview Asher asks not to make him a hero. He gets confused when people thank him that he is fighting.”

“We're just doing our duty. We have to do so. You remember, one of Batalov’s characters said it very well in“Moscow does not believe in tears” movie, when they kicked back hooligans: “You do not say ‘thank you’to your mother that she prepared a delicious soup –she has to make it delicious.” Same as when a man defends his country and his family - this is quite normal, as it should be.

Vyacheslav Chorny, pastor of the ‘New Generation’ Protestant Church  in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Senior Sergeant of Airborne Troops

Vyacheslav Chorny joined the army during the first wave of mobilization, on March 25. His enrollment was preceded by Maidan and the annexation of the Crimea - Vyacheslav could not remain indifferent to events in the country.

I asked before God: “What shall I do, Lord, what to do?” I'm the pastor of a Protestant church, and taking up arms suggests someone's death. On the other hand, I realized that we did not attack anyone, did not invade, but protected. Asking myself this question many times, I could not hear either fromGod,or from men a realistic action plan. Only one thing sounded from all sides: act as you believe in your heart.

Being ¾ Russian, Vyacheslav feels completely Ukrainian: “This is my people, my land, my country. I have to defend the freedom, independence and integrity of this country.” With this decision, he turned to the draft board, saying that they can count on him in case of military conscription. He was contacted in a couple of weeks,was mobilized and quickly packed his bags and already at 6 am was in the military recruitment office. His wife, who threw herself into tears, comforted herself by the fact that he was going to a training camp, 10 days of training - and then how it goes. He knew it was not just a training camp–there will be war.

Vyacheslav was assigned to the 25th Airborne Brigade, where he, in accordance with the rank of senior sergeant received at military service, became a platoon commander of the managing department in self-propelled artillery unit. And then he was transferred to the 1st Air CorpsBattalion, becoming the commander of the grenade launcher department.

In the Army Vyacheslav always tried to find an opportunity to pray, read the Bible, and actively preach about God, as it befits a sincere Protestant. Through his work, four men said a prayer of repentance – a traditional way of proselytizing in the evangelical rite. These same guys then, in June, escaped the crash of IL-76, which killed 49 military servicemen –Vyacheslav believes that they, as novices, were saved by God. For an unknown reason at the last moment they were transferred to another plane.

The unit soldiers treated the protestant pastor with respect, called him a priest. He recalls how once he overheard a conversation of the officers, and his commander boasted to others: “Can you imagine there is a priest in my platoon!” During his service chaplains did not visit their unit– so the pastor partly fulfilled their functions: listened to people, prayed for them.

In July, when the military of the 25th Brigade broke in Shakhtersk, Chorniy was shot in the head - he remembers that day, July 26. Then at a parade he borrowed akevlar helmet from the officer in order not to search for his own, which was already packed in his haversack in the airborne combat vehicle. It was a reserve helmet, and the officer did not request it back, which, in fact, saved Vyacheslav’s life.

"We weremoving between Horlivkaand Debaltseve, we had a mission – to break into Shaktersk. Horlivka was completely surrounded by the separatists. On that day, our battalion took Debaltseve. As we drove, they started sowing mines. We stopped, took a defensive position in the place where we expected assault – built a lineacross the road. There came a shootout, bullets whistled close – and one of them reached me through the helmet. It lost power and started to separate,” says the military. Fragments hit him in the head, and the core of the bullet tipped a part of the cranial bone. All this time, Vyacheslav was conscious and even helped colleagues hospitalize an officer with serious injuries of the abdomen.

Soon the pastor wasmoved to an adjacent unit, where a field hospital was set up. But the next day during the evacuation of wounded soldiers the motorcade was ambushed again.

“Guys were seriously impaired, 5 or 6 people, I do not remember. No bullet hit our ‘Lada’ – it followed a ‘Ural’ car. I was reading the 90th Psalm since morning,”Vyacheslavsays. He had to involve again in the battle, shooton a par with everyone.

In Kharkiv hospital they extracted the bullet from Vyacheslav’s head, cleaned away the debris. From the moment of injury to the operation he remained 34 hours with a bullet in his head. In a month and a half in Kyiv he was inserted a plate instead of the broken part of the skull.

Now the pastor undergoes flight medical expertise. His return to highly mobile troops is impossible with his injury after craniotomy - except in case of general mobilization, with the introduction of martial law. He is ready to such a situation, feeling the strength to continue to defend the country. Meanwhile, he takes care of the flock – it is also a hard work, he says.

In Petropavlovka he is a priest of a small church, up to 40 parishioners. One of them, following the example of Vyacheslav, also went to the military recruitment officeand was assigned to the 39th territorial defense battalion. Now he is at a checkpoint in Luhansk region. And in Pershotravensk, the neighboring town, where there is a large church community (up to 2,000 people), more parishioners got enlisted as volunteers - it is possible that they were also inspired by Vyacheslav’sact. The church in Pershotravensk strongly supported his unit from the outset: “Everybody understands that this is a common cause, and we cannot behave as ostriches buryingour heads in the sand and hiding behind the Bible, saying it does not concern us,” the priest says.

When he was transferred to the battalion, thehe immediately asked the commander about the needs, and the parishioners collected about 17 thousand UAH. He purchased the necessary equipment for the company: shovels, generators. The faithful also came to support him when his platoon was in Artemivsk.

Vyacheslav believes this war is a spiritual one. He knows that in Russia the persecution of Protestantsrenewed, and much politics sounds in the slogans of Orthodox priests from Moscow, there is no God's hand in it, and thus there will be no God's support, the pastor is confident. “God is always on the side of truth, He is the truth. And I believe that our country, our people, who attacked nobody, will be under the protection of God. We are doing everything correctly. We protect our homeland. We do not interfere with anybody,we want peace everywhere, and above all, at home. And so I believe that God is on our side.”

Jamba Dorje Lama, a Buddhist monk and priest, soldier ofthe Right Sector Ukrainian Volunteer Corps

‘Friend Forester’is the callsign of one of the founders of Stepan Bandera’s Trident organization, which later became the core of theRight sector, the centurion of Trident in Donetsk region, also known as Jamba Dorje Lama, Head of the Buddhist Spiritual Directorate and Abbot of Sheychen-ling, the Ukraine’s only official Buddhist monastery.Its name is translated from Tibetan as“abode of great knowledge.” The monastery is located in the village of Olhino,Volnovakhadistrict of Donetsk region, just on the front line: Grad missiles are flying over it. Because of the war the novices dispersed, although the building of the monastery survived. And its abbot has served for almost six months as a scout in the Right Sector Ukrainian Volunteer Corps.

In Buddhism, there is a basic concept of ahimsa - non-violence. We are used to interpret this word in a Christian sense: If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Thisis wrong. The formulation of this concept is as follows: non-violence in action or inaction.

LB.ua talked to Forester in December, when he came to train the Right Sector Fighters on Desna field camp

“Buddhism is peaceful in relation to faith profession; it does not impose itself on anyone. It has never beenspreadforcibly. But it does not mean that Buddhism professes peace at any price. We have a notion of patriotism. There are sutras (teachings - Tib.) about the war from the Buddha himself, which war is fair and which is not. Buddha said:“For the sake of your family forget yourselves, for the sake of your village forget your family, for the sake of your country forget your village, for the sake of the teaching forget everything.”“This is the priority of values,” says Forester, sipping herbal tea in a cafe on the European Square, next to Dnipro hotel, where his brothers from the Right Sector has lived for a long time after the Maidan.

He himself took part in the rallies against Yanukovych in Donetsk region, sincethe fighting started in Kyiv on Hrushevskogo Street. Foresterstates that being in chargefor intelligence in the Right Sector, he knew about the looming invasion of Russian troops in Crimea two weeks before the invasion, and reported it to the leadership.

“One time a warlord of Sinha came to the Buddha, and, after a philosophical dispute with the Buddha he accepted his teaching. He said: “I want to follow the Buddha, but I have one more question. I am a warlord, my goal is to make sure that the village is not attacked by enemies, robbers. Should I act as the Buddha did, i.e. leave the worldly life to become a monk and to refrain from any violence?” The Buddha replied: “The Buddha has never taught to cede anything toforces representing evil, no matter if they are people, spirits or natural forces. But when fighting, one should remember what one isfighting for. The one who attacked, started the war is wrong, but the one who stood up to defend one’s country is not. The one who started the war should be disapproved”. And Buddha said, “Commander, I tell you, fight with all yourpower. But remember what you were told–remember what you are fighting for.”

Forester has not seen other Buddhists face to facein the Right Sector Ukrainian Volunteer Corps, but he knows that there are some–they serve in other parts of the front.

But he has met with representatives of almost all religions: “I used to meet Muslims, Jews and even Vaishnava (Vishnu worshippers - Ed.), - those we callKrishnaites. Greek Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant priests of different denominations visit us. Generally there are adherents of all faiths and atheists in the volunteer corps and it bother absolutely nobody,” says Forester.

His call sign is a real civil profession: current volunteer was a forester-technician, until he became a Buddhist monk. By the way, the graduate of forestry college had his practical classed in the area of Schastye nearLugansk and is well acquainted with the terrain.

It was a long way until Jamba Lama took monastic vows. At first, he became interested in martial arts, including karate, the East as such, he began to study Japanese. Then he became interested in Eastern philosophy, and consequently with psychology, methods of psychological regulation, psychological engineering. And then learned that in the Soviet Union the only Buddhist monastery was functioning in Buryatia, near Ulan-Ude. He went there and got a job as a forester– and studied in parallel, thenit was still illegal.

In 1991 Oleg Muzhchil (secular name of the monk no longer in use) registered the first Buddhist religious organization in Ukraine, in 1993 - the Spiritual Directorate of the Buddhists, and then the monastery. The monks lived partly on donations, partly on revenue from the production of oriental medicines. Venerable Lama Jamba read lectures and seminars all over Ukraine and abroad.

Now the believers (parishioners of the monastery under Volnovaha) according to Foresters, either directly participate in hostilities, or supportthe ATO forces as volunteers: the war has affected everyone.

It is easier for a representative of Nyingma–the Tibetan most liberal branch of Buddhism –to serve in the armed forces than for the convinced adherents of other religions. It has practically no food restrictions (meat is allowed to use too) and no strict requirements to observe any rituals.

In combat conditions I do not sit in the lotus position, as meditation can be practiced in the conversation and in motion. War as it is allows meditating seriously. There are special meditation techniques that are associated with military affairs; they increase a fighter’s resources.

Friend Forester has visited the town of Peski that is constantly under fire. However,he does not tell any front stories –he believes that they will not be understood. “After the war I understood how the heroism during World War II looked like. I understood it when guys fought to death defending the airport of Donetsk. Then ‘Bohema’ was their commander– a former director of children's theater. There was a cameraman with him, also with a gun in his hand, and the same 5 people kept the defense in a ratio of 1: 100,” he proudly tells colleagues.

He was also on the side of the separatists, closer to Donetsk. “Large-scale drug and alcohol addiction,”thescout shareshis impressions of the enemy. “Our guys coming from the front, from the same terminal can drink 100-150 grams – someone does it to remember, to relax a little, no more: there is a prohibition in the Right Sector. In the same three days people are off the water-wagon after the storming of this terminal.”

The scout claims that he possesses the information relating to commercial and other separatist arrangements between Ukraine and Russia in order to lengthen the armed conflict in Donbas, but despite this, the occupied territories will be liberated soon.

“Russia tried to bite off a piece that is too tough, not having considered the level of national consciousness of Ukrainiansthat was very high after Maidan. We are destroying the army that Europe is afraid ofby the forces of volunteer battalions and of the volunteers,” says the fighter. He is sure that the front still reposes on volunteers because Ukraine is only now beginning to reconstitute forces.

Forester says that technical provision of the volunteer corps is already close to equipment of the troops of NATO countries thanks to volunteers. In addition, the fighters constantly have training sessions in which the monk takes a direct part: he teaches volunteers the basics of martial arts in the camp near Kyiv. Their combat effectiveness is constantly growing – and this is the first reason for Forester’s confidence in the victory.

The second is that the resources of Russia, its internal economic, political system do not allow it to conduct long-term wars.

The question for him lies only in the fact that the war is waged on two fronts: in Donbas and Kyiv. And he does not know when the criminal-oligarchic regime in Kyiv will be defeated, but believes that the uprising against the regime may happen at any time, if the government will continue to obstruct changes demanded by people.

In the first part of “Spiritual wars”we talked about how, why, and under what circumstances a Jew, a Protestant and a Buddhist took up arms, standing on the defense of their country, and how they serve in the ATO. Today we publish the story of a Catholic, a Donbas resident professing Islam, a Greek Catholic and an Orthodox –future priest of the UOC (MP), who serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Denys Biletsky, 28 years old, Catholic, border guards officer

Namesake of Azov Volunteer Regiment Commander Denys Biletskyis a Roman Catholic, he has served almost 11 years in the frontier troops. Before being transferred to the ATO area,he was in Chop border guard – on the opposite side of the state border. Denis has stayed in Donbas for the third month, now he is at a frontier post, where he is the commander, which is very close to the front line.

In Catholicism, carrying weapons is not prohibited, says Denis. And there is no difficulty to observe the traditions.

“There were inconveniences when I just started the service. Now, a holiday is a holiday, and if I want to pray, then I can pray before the formation. For me it's no problem. There are different people among mobilized,who may think that I am a little bit crazy or something else – I pay absolutely no attention.

The military serviceman goes to a local church every week - near its frontier there is a temple of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church –Kyiv Patriarchate, his colleagues also go there. In Catholicism it is allowed to attend a church of different denomination in the absence of another church nearby. In addition, military chaplains come visit the regiment - they hear confessions and administer communion to everyone. A couple of days before the interview with LB.ua, Denis’ outpost was visited by a Catholic priest from his parish in Khmelnitsky region. Many people came to the liturgy: “Everyone was excited, we seldom have such events,” said the officer.

Now Catholics have Advent – the four weeks fast before Christmas. According to Denis, soldiers are allowed not to fast at all, but he observes the tradition in his own way, depending on the situation.

“I always haveto abstain from something. Not necessarily from food. One can abstain, for example, from listening to music during Lent, or watching TV. Put some other things aside. Or decide that each day I will additionally read a dozen of prayers with the Rosary (Catholic prayer on beads - Ed.). Such limitation is considered to be the normal fasting,” the militarysays.

In his unit he tries to do everything for justice: to encourage those who have done good, to punish the guilty, thereby setting an example of Christianity. Denis has rarely meet Catholics of the Roman Rite at war - mostly Orthodox and Greek Catholics, some of them serve with him.

“There is even a Muslim. And there are no problems with him at all– at some point he even understands me better than other people. First of all, in the issues of subordination. Because some people are hardly capable to obey orders, and this man, when I tell him to do something, does it without even asking why. Because he knows it should be this way. That's all.

Like other military, border guards are supported by volunteers – including locals. Denis remembersespecially well an old grandfather about 70-80 years old, who came and brought knit socks, gloves and wipes,it was sincere and very nice. But, according to the officer, such examples are multiple – people do not remain indifferent.

Denys always has a feeling that God helps him. “I’m always in a good mood, even when it is difficult. If there is a proble,I praybefore I go to bed, and somehow this problem is solved by itself,” says the military.

Denys has already received a civil education and thena military education and then, at the end of the ATO wants to continue the service, so he entered the military magistracy.

Ainur (name changed), a Muslim,a scout of 72th SeparateMotorized Brigade

Ainur,a Muslim,a scout of 72th Separate Motorized Brigadeof the Armed Forces of Ukraine was born in Donetsk region, and his parents are native Crimean, who survived deportation and returned to Ukraine from the Urals in 1957.

Ainur was mobilized and served in the Army from September, however, mobilization coincided with his voluntary desire to go to war: “I have a simple criterion: I live here, I was born here, and as a man, I shall defend my land. As simple as that. I see who the aggressor is and who the victim is, and in this respect there was no hesitation. What in general can be a problem for Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, when it comes to simple things? There's your house, your home and someone attacksit. How can there be any doubt, to go or not to go?” the military asks a rhetorical question.

By education Ainur is cultural worker, and he worked for many years in this sector as director of the House of Culture in one of the cities of Donetsk region. Then, he says, making progress in his place, he got in somebody’s way and at the end of the 90’s he lost his job.

He tried to find job with the Interior Ministry – and then his enemies interfered: Ainurwas not included on the staff. Then he went into politics in 2000, having become acquainted with Rashid Bragin (brother of RinatAkhmetov’s partnerAkhatBragin, who was killed in an explosion at a stadium in Donetsk - Ed.). Bragin founded the Party of Muslims of Ukraine, which Ainur joined.

“I liked their program as they were going to solve the problems of the Crimean Tatars. There were representatives from Crimea. We were doing it at the beginning, I was involved in the organization of the local branch of the party. But, however, in 2005 we merged with the Party of Regions, and immediately the associated party structures were strengthened under the pretext that we will solve our issues along with them in the regions. But it was all a sham. Our problems were not solved by anyone.

Thereafter the party activity was no longer interesting for Ainur. His wife worked hard and was at that time a breadwinner in the family, so he sent all the time and energy to raising a son and a daughter.

The success of the children will show if he succeeded, Ainur believes. His 27-year-old son graduated from university in Donetsk, and in May this year he started working in Kyiv in IT sector. His daughter lives with her husband and two children in Yalta. It makes no sense to move, says Ainur, as thecurrent“suspended state”of Crimea will sooner or later be resolved. Moreover, it seems that the peninsula in future will be neither Russian nor Ukrainian, but follow its own way.

“Russia will not allow Crimea in any case to become a part of Ukraine. Honestly, Ukraine has shown here a kind of weakness, but, you know ...  We should not let it go like that. Now we’ve got the middle option, the only one remaining: if Crimea holds a legal referendum under the auspices of the OSCE and all international institutions, the Crimean people, I am sure of it, will want to be a separate republic. Of course, it will cooperate with us, with Ukraine, in terms of energy trade.

In 2014, when Maidan broke out in Kyiv, Ainur started organizing a regional branch of the Majlis of the Crimean Tatarsin Donetsk. He communicated with the leadership of the Majlis in Crimea, but after the annexation of the Crimea process of creation of the organization froze somewhere at the level of 50%. He tried to reach out to the leaders of the Majlis, even phoned and spoke to RefatChubarov to speed things up - Chubarov promised him humanitarian aid for the construction of the building. And at the end of the summer Ainur received a draft notice from the army.


In his unit he was not the only representative of Islam. There is a Kyiv resident with him, a Tajik.

Ainur experiences no difficulties in the performance of religious rites in the military service. He does not succeed eating halal (permissible food standards of Islam), but that's not the point, says the military. Restrictions on food, according to the Koran, are rather cautions than prohibitions. And when it comes to an option of eating unauthorized food (even a piece of bacon) or starve to death,one should choose eating then. The same applies to the Muslim prayer - salah.

Thus, in Crimea volunteer company that includes mostly Tatar settlers from the peninsula, the prayer takes place three times a day instead of five in civilian life. In ordinary military units this is often impossible, so the soldiers are allowed to deviate from the rules.

We are required Jumu'ah– a prayer on Fridays. But if I have some circumstances, the Almighty sees and even allows to miss it, explains the Muslim.

According to him, how many times a man prayed is not a measure for God. It is more important to do good– and he will appreciate it.

 “The Almighty is so wise that, you know - if I do not pray5 times a day, but act in compliance with the basic principles of a Muslim, there is be nothing wrong and shameful, and I do not break anything. But we are trying to observe a collective Jumu'ahon Friday, because a prayer to the Almighty is multiplied this way. There more good intentions there are, the more he turns his gaze and attention on you.”

Ainur performs his military service along with faithful Christians, who attend a church that is the closest to the location, by the way, the Moscow Patriarchate. He respectfully said about people who, come from distant stations for Sunday worship even in bad weather. Ainur has not yet met representatives of other religions, but believes that this war is a catalyst for unity of all the people.

“There were some moments in the history of the Soviet regime, when many officers from among the Crimean Tatars, the soldiers who came to the Crimea after the deportation, saw the ruined houses. In order not to go crazy, they fought in the Western Ukraine in the ranks of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. And now I understand them perfectly. I would have acted the same if I lived those days.”

Ainur was both a Komsomol and Communist party member, but realized in time that party officials have lied to people.

In his opinion, good and evil in the world is always balanced. Now Putin has exceeded the limit of evil, therefore the Almighty will help only those who hold side of good in this confrontation,” says the fighter.

“By the way, as far as the analysis of all wars is concerned, all empires began to fall just at the moment when they reached the top, the peak of their development. And then it all starts to crumble. Any empire brings evil to some territory. And then the Almighty starts to balance it. Similarly, it was with Hitler, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, anyone you choose. With Putin it will happen the same way. His stupidity is that he does not understand that. And I am a simple man, but I understand that. And I know perfectly well that we have a big blank check for the Almighty, and we get the result for which we are fighting.

And Ainur intends to serve and fight as much as he is strong enough and can be of use to his country.

Semchyshyn Roman, a Greek-Catholic, deputy commander of the 25thterritorial defense battalion‘KyivanRus’

Before getting into the battalion of territorial defense from Lviv Roman, he has been nearly six months a centurion of Self-defense of Maidan. ‘KyivanRus’became the third power unit, where they went to serve the people of his hundred. The previous two were the National Guard units.

- I made my decision after the events under Volnovaha, when a lot of Ukrainians were killed in the humiliating circumstances. I announced that I was leaving the post of centurion, and suggested it to those who want: go to war with me, or go home. And handed over the officeof centurion to his deputy, who was at that time in Kherson,” says the officer.

Initially, his battalion was made up entirely ‘from scratch’from the Maidan participants.

Roman’s family took his decision to join the army firmly and calmly. The beloved people, who have known him for a long time, arenot surprised any longer, theydo not discuss, but accept his decisions as circumstances that just need to be regarded.

Being a sincere Greek Catholics, in the rank of a captain Roman became deputy commander of the battalion, which participated in hostilities. He says that there is no philosophical reason to the officer, even a reserve officer, not to defendhis country and his people. Men with guns on his land are enemies, and his work is to liquidate them. In this he is supported by his dear ones, who respect his decision. His friend, a priest of the Lviv Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (her 2001 visit to the Pope - Ed.), with whom he always advised on disputed issues of life and faith, is of the same opinion.

The military service does not prevent Roman to pray and confess at the nearest Orthodox church, while fasting, diet restriction is not mandatory at war: the military servicemen exercisetoo much, and the Church takes this into account: “They  equip their housing, shelters with their own hands. They digtrenches;build bomb shelters that will protect them from fire artillery. They chop firewood, unload ammunition and equipment, carry heavy load,” Roman says. Therefore, the military diet shall include meat, the protein that gives muscle strength.

On the other hand, the issues of strict discipline in the ATO havereceded into the background, and soldiers at checkpoints can afford a certain freedom.

“This past Sunday it was necessary to cut metal grinder outside the fence, weld safety nets. We put it off to Monday. On Sunday, one should rather do some other work, an easier one. In principle, all the military in this war are very independent. Our battalion has stayed for the fourth month in Donbas, and now every soldier knows what he must do. In principle, everyone manages his time except duty turns, determines when to wash and when to cut firewood, and when to bring coal. It is possible to transfer some work from holidays on weekdays, it is tolerated,” said the officer.

When the chaplain comes, the battalion forgets about the differences between the faiths. A priest confesses and conducts the liturgy for everyone.

“I can see how people are drawn to the priest, all lined up for confession. We performservices for the deceased. Here they acquire a special meaning: they are no longer abstract dead, they are from our battalion. And when this service is officiated, the soldiers are thinking about their comrades, living and dead. And the issue does not concern denominations, Roman explains. His battalion has up to ten deceased.

In addition to Christians, ‘KyivanRus’also includes Jews, Muslims (one of them – an Uzbek -is at service now). However, the first Jew Roman met, wore the Star of David around the neck along with a cross, and said that they do not interfere.

 Roman, who, incidentally, was running for the parliamentary elections in October this year, but lost to the candidate of Petro Poroshenko Coalition, has its own original vision of how to end the conflict in the east. It sounds like a prophecy:

“This war will end in the collapse, destruction of the Russian state. A revolt will start inside it, the national liberation movement of the oppressed peoples will activate. Manifestations of civil society will become more often, which will be convincing to people and oppose the lie of propaganda. That is, when Russia collapses the war is over.”

He knows deep enough history of Ukrainian statehood and the relations between Russia and Ukraine, and has been struggling for a long time with the totalitarian regimes: those of Kuchma andYanukovich. Roman ensures his independence of the Russian regime with his small private business of growing trees. When the war is over, he would like to return to his favorite activity: he says that the only thing that will save him from the depression that always comes to replace the adrenaline of struggle.

AndriySereda, an Orthodox of the UOC (MP), Second Lieutenant, Svyatoshin military recruitment office

AndriySeredawas trained to become a priest, but came to the military recruitment officeand became a military serviceman. After graduating from Odessa Theological Seminary, and then from Kyiv Theological Academy, he served at a military department and obtained a rank of second lieutenant of reserve. Andriy hardly imagined that he would ever need this title. But a foreign army invaded his land.

 Before mobilization AndriySereda bore obedience at the Kyiv-Caves Monastery

When March this year the first mobilizationstarted, he warned his family members that he may receive a draft notice and enroll to army, but he did not wait for an official invitation: “I have taken oath, I have to defend the country. I waited a couple of days, and not having receiveda notice, and he went to the military recruitment office,” says a volunteer.

Andriydid not manage to enroll at once: other specialties were needed at the time. But in the end he was mobilized and assigned to the position of HR officer. He accompanied the mobilizedto the military units, where they proceeded to combat duty, and drove the bodies of dead heroes to relatives.

Soon he was transferred to the post of senior officer of HR department. Andriy was engaged in manning the military units with human resources – he reluctantly uses this expression. In fact, he selects personal for different brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

And yet, despite the fact that Andrew had no time yet to become a priest, the military often turn to him for advice –everyone needs need spiritual support.

“For the past 9 months, I have stayed atSvyatoshynmilitary recruitment office in Kyiv - except for those days when I go on business trips. I was not involved in the fighting. But we have been asking  and waiting for our transfer to go to a combat unit,” says Andriy, and by his tone of voice it is felt that he really had stayed too long at the headquarters office. He repeats several times that he is ready at any time to pack up and head to the east, but the order has not yet come.

He tells how his friend Ruslan, with whom he studied at the seminary, enrolled in the army under contract and went at war after a year and a half, being in the 79th airmobile brigade. “He was wounded some 10 hours before the release of Slavyansk. And as far as I know, he has been in Odessa,undergoing rehabilitation and perhaps, he is already at home - but not yet returned to the front, he took his time to regain strength. Andriy speaks respectfully of the classmates who had a chance to “smell the gunpowder”. He says those who are involved in the fighting in the east of the country are real heroes.

He does not see contradictions between his desire to go to war and the biblical commandment.

“How can there be a contradiction for an Orthodox person if the main commandment of love is that there is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friends? And you know, it is the bounden duty of every man, every Christian to protect the God-given land, his dear ones and the people who need our protection. So I have no doubt about it. Especially because I am the son of a soldier, and I was always brought up in the spirit that a man shall be a defender,” says the officer.

For him, this war isan opportunity to perform both civil and spiritual duty. The family supportsAndriy, but many peers, classmates do not share his position,often criticize or misinterpret it. However, for him it does not matter.

He is sure that every Orthodox person, every Christian wants peace, warmth and love. But needs to be defended when attacked. Andriy recalls an episode when Christ was summoned to judgment, and He was hitby the servant of a hierarch. Christ did notremain silent, saying: “Why do you hit me?” Therefore it is wrong to give up humbly, to go to slaughter like sheep.

Patriarch Kirillof Moscow and All Russia in November said about Ukraine: “The people, divided by their understanding of own history, are unable to stay united.” Despite this, the believers, including from his church, the UOC (MP),witness today the complete unity of Ukrainians in the fight against the aggressor.

On the eve of a conversation with LB.uaAndriySereda returned from the 96th Antonov School, in Svyatoshyn district, the only school of Kyiv with in-depth study of the Russian language. There the children prepared hand-made angels to the feast of St Nicholas, and asked to give them to ‘cyborgs’ of the 95th Brigade, fighting in Donetsk airport.

- Believe me, my heart just breaks into pieces when I see those eyes and senses. It will probably be much more valuable to get these little angels for the childrenthan socks. It's like hoping to return there, understanding that they are needed, are not forgotten, they're not alone. Tens, hundreds, thousands of our children pray for them.

After the academy Andriy planned to become a priest. He wants to return to the execution of this plan, when the long-awaited peace comes.

Article was originally published in Livy Bereh, translated by Julia Zubkova

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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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