Ukraine Conflict: A reflection from the Archdeacon of Eastern, and Germany & Northern Europe

The Ven Dr Leslie Nathaniel, Archdeacon of Eastern, and Germany & Northern Europe has written the below reflection ahead the one-year anniversary of war in Ukraine.

On Friday 24 February it will be a full year that Ukraine finds itself defending its territory.

Since then, open war is waging in changing locations within its borders with all the unconscionable scenarios of lives lost, of destruction and the fallout for the civilian populations. Neither is an end nor a resolution to the conflict in sight. What many parts of the world found hard to comprehend a year ago and yet responded to with a mostly unified voice of condemnation of the aggression has become a reality that has brought uncertainty and volatility into every, even day to day, aspects of our lives, especially here in Europe.

Politically, militarily, economically and socially we are being challenged to take on board the costs of this war, first and foremost for the people of Ukraine, but also for the people of Russia and not least for our own communities. It has turned into a war of attrition, in more than the military sense.

Our members in Christ Church, Kyiv of up to currently 10 people attend the bi-weekly prayers and services of the Word. These are both Ukrainians who have not fled from the war but have stayed in the city and some people from foreign communities who work for International Aid Missions in Ukraine.

This community aims to stay in Ukraine, pray and give hope to all people who are in need of physical, material and spiritual support during these difficult and uncertain times, and we pray with confidence that Christ Church will be able to have its resident chaplain as soon as the ground realities allow.

For the people of Ukraine this war is turning into a marathon. It has not been a sprint and they have not been vanquished, they have shown courage and resilience despite a constant threat to life, air raid alerts, emergency blackouts, disruption of the heating systems, transport and essential supplies.

The call, therefore, is to remind ourselves of the principle on which the united voice was raised in support of Ukraine. And that principle has not changed, namely the right and the duty to struggle for freedom and to withstand subjugation. Steffen Dobbert, a well-known journalist with a master’s degree in European Studies and winner of the German Reporter Prize in 1917 who has researched extensively in the Ukraine in his book Understanding Ukraine (Klett-Cotta, 2022) writes in his foreword: “By definition, courage is the readiness, even in the face of expected disadvantages, to do what one considers to be right. A secret of freedom is courage.” (My translation).

As Archdeacon with responsibility for our small congregation in Ukraine, my prayer is one of thankfulness for their fortitude and courage through all the troubles, and it continues to be a prayer for their physical safety and spiritual well-being. I pray also for the leaders of our countries, that wisdom to seek a just resolution and the avoidance of escalation may guide them in their decision-making and lead to a free Ukraine and a restoration of peace. We live in the Easter faith and in the assurance of God´s guiding Spirit.