A visit to Severodonetsk with Ukrainian National Women’s League of America aid mission

5 July 2019, 11:03 | Monitoring | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Oka Hrycak

The Ukrainian Weekly, June 21, 2019

Severodonetsk is a city of some 100,000 in eastern Ukraine that was captured in May 2014 by Russian militants. In July 2014, Ukrainian forces regained control of the city.

In October 2018, I had an opportunity to travel throughout Ukraine with a stop in Severodonetsk in my role as social welfare chair of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA). The UNWLA has a long-time history of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Programs include the Wounded War Victims Fund, founded in 2015, to assist with the needs of active-duty soldiers and wounded warriors and families of those lost in war. Prostir Nadii, established in 2016 and affiliated with Ukrainian Catholic University, treats soldiers and families with psychological issues that arise from aftermaths of war free of charge. The Babusi Fund, active since 1958, supports elderly women who have no families. The newly established Spiritual Growth of Ukraine Fund (2019) provides financial assistance to seminarians of both the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches who will serve as priests in the eastern parts of Ukraine.

The UNWLA also has been working with Father Stepan Sus, the director of the Center for Military Chaplaincy of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Lviv. As a supporter of Father Sus, the UNWLA has donated to his mission of organizing biannual camps and programs for children in orphanages and in families touched by war in central and eastern Ukraine. Father Sus was the first to acquaint us with the center in Severodonetsk.

I was traveling with Dr. Maria Furtak, our UNWLA liaison in Lviv, and Dr. Vasyl Pazyniak, former national deputy and neurosurgeon, to visit Severodonetsk, where the UNWLA is supporting a spiritual and community center. We had stopped at Dnipro to visit several hospitals. Our next goal was to travel east and reach Severodonetsk.

Our journey started. At the stop at our first checkpoint, we saw that Vyacheslav Voloshyn and Serhiy Skala, our guides, are respected by the soldiers at the point and had all the needed documents because we were allowed through with just a cursory look. As we entered the town, we began looking for the address of the building that was being converted into a spiritual and community center. Finally, we asked two women, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the town square, who gave us directions. It turns out the building was next to their Kingdom Hall.

From the outside, the center was in very poor shape and surrounded by rubble. However, once inside, we found two workers who were converting the front room into a beautiful, clean space. The UNWLA’s first donation of $7,000 was well spent.

The workers called the pastor and director of the center, Father Yuriy Yurchyk, who was meeting with a German consular representative on a project. Father Yurchyk approached; he’s a dynamic figure: positive, charismatic and full of boundless energy. He shared his dreams for the building, which included church space, a community center, a kitchen and bathrooms. He mentioned that in a community overwhelmed by separatists, he was already celebrating liturgy for about 20 people in the almost completed room and was also hosting Plast members for their activities. (Just as an aside, Father Yurchyk had served in Dubai for three years, where he had over 15,000 parishioners.)

It was easy to agree to donate another $8,000 toward the center’s repair fund. Another room was added. Space continues to house new projects, such as group activities for adults and young Plast members. The Christmas season brought a live “vertep” and “koliadnyky” to the space.

Father Yurchyk sends us timely photographs of the well-scrubbed, sheetrocked and newly painted spaces. Recently, when he reached out again to the UNWLA to support the upgrading of other floor space, the request was affirmed. The plan is to house activities for individuals with special needs. An autism center already established in the community is also hoping to have space allocated. A most recent vote by the UNWLA Executive Board supported another $10,000 to continue repairs, bringing total financial support to $25,000.

On May 12, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic chapel named in honor of the Assumption of the Mother of God and the center, the Spiritual Social Center of Pope Francis, were blessed by Archbishop-Metropolitan Ihor Vozniak of Lviv. As he walked into the center, Archbishop Ihor was overwhelmed by the beauty, expecting something simpler. This became even more apparent during the blessing of the chapel, when the hierarch was greeted by Plast members, parishioners and guests totaling 70 persons.

Dr. Pazyniak represented the UNWLA, and gifted the center with a painting of Jesus blessing children and a plaque sending good wishes, signed by UNWLA President Marianna Zajac. He greeted all in attendance. Father Yurchyk and his parishioners thanked the UNWLA for their abundant support of the project.

In closing, Father Yurchyk underscored: “Having such a beautiful location, we are certain Ukraine will be here in Luhansk Oblast. Surely, this generation will need to undergo change, but already, children and youth and their parents who visit us have Ukraine in their hearts and will pass it on to the next generation. Only with this kind of spiritual and social center will there be opportunities to grow Ukrainian spirit and culture. The community is expanding. Luhanshchyna is Ukraine!”

Donations from our Ukrainian community in the diaspora would further enhance the mission. Donations may be sent to: UNWLA, 203 Second Ave. – 5th Floor, New York, NY 10003-5706. (Please make a notation that the donation is for Severodonetsk.)

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  • bopa | 15 October 2019, 22:45

    Тим більше, що відновлено стан Православної церкви в Україні, який вона мала у ХУІІ ст. Митрополію з перспективою на патріархію, що дає можливість користати здобуткам, досвідом інших братніх

  • Paraeklezyarh | 15 October 2019, 13:47

    Те що відбувається з ПЦУ після отримання Томосу про автокефалію назвати "розвитком" важко. Швидше то були намагання створити (а в кого протидіяти створенню) автокефального Київського

  • velovs@ukr.net | 12 October 2019, 18:30

    Ну що ж: та штучна ізоляція (невизнання) ПЦУ у світовому православ'ї, що її цинічно й зухвало інспірував, тиснув і нагнітав (відповідні страшилки-жахалки) МП, по суті, подолана. Принаймні, успішний

  • Paraeklezyarh | 12 October 2019, 15:08

    Слава Богу ! Це дійсно вияв мужності предстоятеля та єпископату Елладської церкви. Пам'ятаймо про це.

  • velovs@ukr.net | 11 October 2019, 17:03

    Водночас, як каже і акцентує Святе Письмо, це саме Господь "змінює часи і літа, СКИДАЄ ЦАРІВ і ПОСТАВЛЯЄ ЦАРІВ; дає мудрість мудрим і розуміння розумним" (Дан.2:21). ----- А ось щодо декого