1. The premise
Throughout history all Ukrainian cherished freedom and the opportunity to live in their own State. They fought for it, they died for it, they wrote songs about it. One of those folk Ukrainian songs became widely known after 24th of February, 2022. And yet, not only in Ukraine, but also far abroad! In this song, the image of viburnum (kalyna) represents Ukraine. Kalyna is a tree with brightly red berries, symbol of the blood of all those Ukrainians who lived for the dream of a free and independent Ukraine – and perished for that dream. That’s the tree that was planted and rooted in a specific place by God. The song became the anthem of the war for independence.
“Hey Hey Rise Up” is a single based on a Ukrainian anthem “Oh, the Red Viburnum (kalyna) in the Meadow”
On February 24, 2022, at 4.30 am, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. However for Ukrainians the war began 8 years ago, from the very day in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied part of the Ukrainian Donbas. Through the selfless efforts of the Ukrainian military and diplomats, the eight-year war in Donbas did not affect the rest of the country. On February 24th, it became clear that Putin desired not only the Crimea and Donbas, but the whole territory of Ukraine, which, according to his worldview and falsified history, never existed at all! However, he attacked the land of Ukrainians, the nation with European roots, and an independent state. For this historical truth, Ukrainians, in Putin’s opinion, must be destroyed.
Oh, in the meadow a red kalyna has bent down low,
For some reason, our glorious Ukraine is in sorrow.
And we’ll take that red kalyna and we will raise it up,
And we shall cheer up our glorious Ukraine, hey – hey!
War of Values
In 2014 the 4th President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to proceed with European integration of Ukraine and ordered to forcefully disperse the peaceful rally of students on Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square. His actions resulted in a months-long confrontation between civil society and the pro-Russian authorities. The events of 2013-2014 entered the national history of Ukraine and are known to the world as Euromaidan. At that time, the passionate part of Ukrainian society opposed election fraud, corruption, lack of justice, arbitrariness of officials and police, lack of economic and media freedoms, as well as dependence on Russian gas. Civil society dreamed of joining the realm of European values that made Europe a standard of civil rights and freedoms, democracy and economic prosperity. Ukrainians wanted to, finally, rejoin the European family from which they were torn out for centuries by Russian and Soviet slavery.
A video clip depicting the spirit and tragic events of Euromaidan 2013-2014.
Photographs below conveying the essence of the struggle for freedom during Euromaidan.
In February 2014, the pro-Russian authorities shot more than a hundred protesters who went down in history under the collective name of “Heavenly Hundred”. When those crimes were commited, anyone could watch it live, due to thorough documentation of the events – as well as the current war! Immediately after the Euromaidan, Yanukovych fled from the country to Russia. Thus, the Ukrainians understood that the values of the Euromaidan – freedom and truth – prevailed.
But it turned out that Russia does not intend to release Ukraine from the sphere of its political, economic and cultural influence in a peaceful way. Therefore, under the pretext of protecting the Russian population from non-existent enemies, the neighboring state annexed Crimea and occupied part of the Donbas.
2. Russia’s intentions
On February 26th, 2022, at 8:00 am, the website of the main Russian international propaganda news agency RIA News published an article by the agency’s regular columnist Petr Akopov titled “The beginning of Russia’s invasion and of the new world”. This article, which in essence became a program document of the “Russian world” ideology – was written to inform the Russians and the world community about the success of special operation and the onset of a new era. It was accidentally published by the editors of the website and since then – made headlines of both Ukrainians and International media.
According to the Kremlin’s plans, the 150 thousand soldiers of Russian army were supposed to capture the Ukrainian capital in two days, kill the top Ukrainian leadership, establish a puppet regime, both in Kyiv and in all Ukrainian regions, and begin mass executions of patriotic citizens. Ukraine, as an independent state this time certainly could have been erased. Ukrainian territories could have become separate regions that Russia was going to include in its territories by pseudo-constitutional way.
Here is the quote from the now deleted article:
“A new world is being born before our eyes. Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has opened a new era, Russia is rebuilding its unity – the tragedy of 1991 (the collapse of the USSR – author’s note), this terrible catastrophe of our history, its unnatural dislocation, have been overcome. Ukraine as anti-Russia will no longer exist. Russia is restoring its historical fullness by bringing together the Russian world, the Russian people together – in all its totality of Great Russians, Belarusians and Little Russians. If we abandoned this, allowed the temporary division to take root for centuries, we would not only betray the memory of our ancestors, but we would also be cursed by our descendants – for allowing the disintegration of the Russian land”.
Russian propaganda calls the act of aggression against Ukraine as a “denazification” of Ukraine. The article was deleted on February 26, but it remained available on the web.archive website at the link.
Moreover, on April 3, the RIA News website was scheduled to publish another article, now by Russian political strategist Timofey Sergeytsev titled “What Russia should do with Ukraine.” It could also be called an ideological document of the “Russian world”. Even though the article was promtly removed due to the military failures of the enemy – people could still read what fate Russian authorities prepared for Ukrainian citizens.
However, even before the article was mistakenly published, Ukrainians found out about the plans of the enemy in the blood freezing way. The harsh realization came with the horrors of Bucha, Irpen, Gostomel, Borodyanka and Motyzhin atrocities commited by the hands of Russian occupiers. The ideas mentioned in the article faded in comparison with the scenes of XX centure genocide.
Ukraine IS NOT a little Russia
Response to Russian propaganda
It is safe to say that the current Ukrainian-Russian war is not the result of Ukraine’s desire to join NATO or the dispute between the USA and Russia in achieving geopolitical goals. This war is a continuation of the 800-year struggle of the Ukrainian people for the right to exist in the face of the threat from the north-eastern neighbour. Especially dramatically, this existential struggle for survival against the Russian encroachment on dominance over Ukraine has been continuously waged for the past 400 years.
Russian propaganda justifies the invasion of Ukraine by protecting the rights of the “Russian-speaking” population of southern and eastern Ukraine. There is great hypocrisy in this, since, starting from the 17th century, the Russian state systematically destroyed and squeezed the Ukrainian language and writing from Ukrainian lands.
One of the first shocking pages of this war was the killing and abuse of Ukrainian civilians by Russian Armed Forces during the fight for and occupation of the Ukrainian city of Bucha near Kyiv. But in the Ukrainian-Russian relations this is not the first time when such horrible violence against civilians has happened. Very similar events went down in history under the name of Sack of Baturyn or the Baturyn massacre.
And the last one. When Russia calls the collapse of the USSR “the tragedy of 1991” and the “terrible catastrophe of our history”, they are nostalgic for the state of total terror, which victimised about 10,000,000 Ukrainians. It is obvious why Ukrainians do not want to return to the “Evil Empire” and need an international support in their struggle. You can found some terrible figures below:
Moreover, the enemy’s plan was put into practice in besieged city of Mariupol, with more than 22 thousand of its citizens mercilessly killed. In the meantime, those who survived were in huge number forcibly deported to Russia and to the territories occupied by Russia. Currently there is a real risk that up to 10 thousand more will die in the near future from hunger, thirst, diseases, wounds and bombardments. In total, over 100,000 residents of Mariupol are trapped in the blockade.
Why are Mariupol residents being killed? We read about it in an article by a Russian political strategist: “However, in addition to the upper crust, a significant part of the masses, which are passive Nazis, accomplices of Nazism, are also to blame. They supported and indulged the Nazi authorities. The fair punishment of this part of the population is possible only as bearing the inevitable hardships of a just war against the Nazi system, which is carried out as gingerly and cautiously as possible in relation to civilians. Further denazification of this mass of the population consists in re-education, which is achieved by ideological repression (suppression) of Nazi attitudes and strict censorship: not only in the political sphere, but also necessarily in the sphere of culture and education”.
According to the Russian occupiers logic, not a single Ukrainian should remain in Ukraine: some will be killed, others will be re-educated in camps. Particularly cynical are the words: “punishment…as gingerly and cautiously as possible” for “a significant part of the masses”. Apparently, the opportunity to act “gingerly and cautiously” was never discovered, so almost 100% of all buildings in the city of Mariupol were destroyed!
Finally, the behaviour, that in the eyes of Russian propaganda deserves “punishment”, is the Ukrainian nation desire to exist and thrive.
The article was later deleted but its copy can be found here.
3. The Right of Ukraine to Self-Defense
In the beginning of full-scale invasion of Russia in Ukraine, the Ukrainian army successfully prevented the arrival of so-called “new era”. Only in the first two days of the war, the Russian army lost about 3 thousand soldiers and approximately 100 tanks and 16 enemy aircraft. This became possible due to the heroism of the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian nation as a whole..
One of the first tragic stories that Ukrainians learned about was the story of 25-year-old sapper Vitaly Skakun. He mined the Genichesk automobile bridge, but did not have time to leave in time, so he blew up the bridge along with himself in order to stop the advance of the Russian tank column from the Crimean Perekop Isthmus – one of the most difficult places to defend. His act significantly slowed down the advance of the Russian forces and allowed the Marine Corps to redeploy and organize the defense.
Only in mid-April, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that between 2,500 and 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had died during the full-scale war.
A couple of months before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Protestant pastor of the Mariupol “Church of Good Changes”, father of 38 children and public figure Gennady Mokhnenko received the “Light of Justice” award from the Institute of Leadership and Management of the Ukrainian Catholic University. He received it for the fact that “with his selfless work and vocation, he is an example of good service, sacrifice in solving social problems and saving human lives”. Today he is doing what he has been doing for many years before – saving lives by evacuating civilians from the war zone and bringing humanitarian aid.
In the first days of the invasion, literally from under the nose of the advancing Russian army, pastor evacuated his Center of children’s rehabilitation “ Republic Pilgrim” from Mariupol. However did not have time to save his daughter… On March 13, a Russian tank fired at the apartment building where Victoria lived. She died. Now G. Mokhnenko is doing everything to get at least a few more people out of the encircled city.
For more than 70 days of the war, together with a team of chaplains, he evacuated more than 1,200 people from the besieged Mariupol. Several thousand people were also evacuated from other cities and villages of Donbas. While this ministry is often associated with a serious risk to life, it has never stopped the team of dedicated Christians.
Hundreds of tons of humanitarian cargo was delivered by a team for Ukrainian defenders and civilians located in front-line settlements. Tons of medicines and special equipment were handed over to the defenders of Ukraine. In addition, the daily work of chaplains is carried out at the forefront. A few days ago, for courage, dedication and exemplary performance of duty, Pastor Mokhnenko’s team received the medal “For the Defense of the Native State.”
The Russian army was unable to capture Kyiv in two days. For more than a month, the enemy was advancing on the capital from three sides. Kyiv and the roads to it were bravely defended by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, territorial defense fighters and residents of the occupied cities and villages. Almost immediately after the invasion, cities and villages within a radius of 40 km from Kyiv were occupied. These are Bucha, Irpen, Gostomel, Motyzhin, Borodyanka, Katyuzhanka, etc. After their liberation, Ukraine and the whole world shuddered at what they saw! Hundreds of killed men and women with signs of torture, a huge number of raped women and children, barbaric looting, devastation and destruction of Ukrainian dwellings.
The story of Olga Sukhenko is the story of a heroic confrontation between a brave Ukrainian woman and the “second army of the world”.
On February 27, Russian troops occupied the village of Motyzhin (40 km from Kyiv), which was led by Olga Sukhenko. During the occupation, Olga organized the delivery of necessary products and essential goods from the non-occupied areas to the village. In early March, she also organized an evacuation convoy of civilians to leave Motyzhin.
Moreover Olga Sukhenko became an informer for the Armed Forces of Ukraine by sending information to the army about the whereabouts and movement of Russian troops. Thus, an attempt by the invaders to break through in the direction of the capital of Ukraine from the side of Motyzhin failed – at least one Russian tank was destroyed. Artillery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine fired at Russian positions in the forest on the outskirts of Motyzhyn, and on March 18, a group of Ukrainian soldiers made their way into the village, setting up an ambush there: one of the Russian armored vehicles and a truck were destroyed by anti-tank weapons.
On March 23, the invaders “arrested” the 50-year-old head of the village council Olga Sukhenko, her husband and son. On April 4, after the liberation of the Kyiv region, her body was found with bound hands, signs of torture and a bullet wound to the head in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Motyzhin. The murdered husband and son were lying there as well.
Without the selfless work of journalists, the world would not have known the whole truth about this war. The famous photographs from the besieged Mariupol, the destroyed Borodianka, the mutilated Bucha, Irpin and other cities and towns of the Kyiv region are known due to their work.
In 2022, the Pulitzer Prize jury awarded all Ukrainian journalists who cover the war in Ukraine with a special award. “Despite the bombings, kidnappings, occupations and even deaths in their ranks, they persistently try to give an accurate picture of the terrible reality, which does honor to Ukraine and journalists around the world,” the Pulitzer Prize Council accompanied the award with these words.
Since the beginning of the war in Donbas in 2014, photojournalist Maxim Levin has been working there as a documentary photographer. Because of his journalistic project AFTERILOVAISK, the world learned about the tragedy of Battle for Ilovaisk. In 2022, he covered Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. His weapon was a camera. In the first five days of a full-scale war, Maxim managed to publish photo reports from at least seven hot spots in different parts of Ukraine.
On March 13, communication with him was lost. On April 1, the police found his body with bullet wounds to the head in one of the villages of the Kyiv region, where he was going to document the consequences of Russian aggression. He was deliberately shot twice by a Russian military man.
Levin also co-founded the Parents’ Club social project, an association that inspires dads to be heroes for their children.
However, Max levin was not the one bravely working on the hot spots.
Terrible photos from the besieged Mariupol flew around the front pages of probably all the world’s newspapers and publications thanks to the work of the journalist of the international information agency Associated Press Mstislav Chernov and the photographer of the agency Yevgeny Maloletka. On February 23, an hour before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, they arrived in Mariupol to be at the center of the events and tell the truth about the war. They were the only international journalists in Mariupol who regularly sent photos and videos of Russian war crimes to the world. The “weeping voice” of Mariupol was so loud that the Russian authorities, represented by the Russian Embassy in London and the Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Security Council, made several attempts to discredit the work of journalists and arrest them. Therefore, on March 15, the Ukrainian military helped the men leave the city.
4. God has not left Ukraine: Church in Extreme Conditions of War
Since the beginning of the war in 2014, a wonderful tradition has been born in Ukraine – a nationwide prayer for the country, as an expression of the scale of local prayers brought together, which tirelessly ascend to the throne of the Almighty. At the same time, in some Ukrainian churches, a completely new for Ukraine ministry of military chaplains arose. For 8 years it was growing and bringing good results. And the social service of the church joined the general flow of a powerful volunteer movement that swept the whole country.
The full-scale invasion in 2022 brought new challenges to the Church: the massive resettlement of Ukrainians both inside and outside the country, humanitarian catastrophe, evacuation of civilians from the combat zone, etc. Those churches that have previously taken an active part in the fate of people continued to do so after February 24th.
Thousands of trucks with humanitarian aid, thousands of evacuated people from the combat zones and millions of Ukrainians who received practical help are the fruit of different Ukrainian Christian churches and partners around the world. In addition, local churches on the territories liberated from the Russian occupation forces participating in the restoration of destroyed residential buildings, social infrastructure facilities, the construction of shelters for schools in case of air alerts, etc.
Let us show you one example how, fulfilling their calling where they are and with what they have, Ukrainians bring great fruit to the common cause of victory.
Relatively close to the Ukrainian-Polish border in Lublin, the small Ukrainian Protestant community “God’s Light” in the very first days of the war installed about 30 beds for refugees in the church and in the shortest possible time organized 5 shelters for 75 people in the city and one shelter in Wrocław for 30. During the first two months of the war, shelters received more than 800 people who needed comfort, accommodation and solutions to legal, medical, educational and a host of other pressing issues. A little later the summer school to catch up with the school program, due to the forced break in studies in the spring, was organized in the church for children and teenagers.
The fact that there are many such examples throughout Ukraine is incredibly inspiring.
God is the creator of our history
God is the creator of our history.
He writes it through the skills and courage of the military, whose hands He personally “trains for battle”, just as he once taught this to the hands of David. How else can one explain the fantastic successes of Ukrainian soldiers, who are surprised by the military elite of many countries?
He writes our history with the heroism of volunteers who help the defenders and fellow citizens of their country with everything that money can buy and that cannot be bought for any money in the world.
He writes our history with the unstoppable prayers of the church and its love for the neighbor.
He writes our history with the unprecedented colossal support of the Western world, people of good will from many “languages and dialects”.
He writes our history with His miracles and His own presence in the cellars of Mariupol, maternity hospitals in Kyiv, shelters of the Carpathians, Lviv and Lublin, trenches of Donbas.
In modern historiography, a name has not yet been invented for this war. But everyone understands that living on the pages of a textbook, namely in the final paragraphs of the struggle for the independence of Ukraine and the existence of Western civilization, which is being written before the eyes of the whole world, is difficult, painful and scary.
We hope that the Lord will shorten the days of this war and give Ukraine the joy of victory!