The headlines and images demonstrating war in Ukraine are unsettling for most people in the United States, but they generate fear and anxiety for Ukrainian Americans who are terrorized watching a Russian attack in their homeland where so many still have family and friends.
“It’s horrible,” said Ukraine native Father Volodymyr Klanichka, pastor of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Wilmington.
“I didn’t sleep all night,” he said.
Father Klanichka has been in the U.S. more than 20 years. He and his wife Natalia – Ukrainian Catholic priests can marry – live with their twin children in Wilmington. They have family members whose homes have been evacuated after airstrikes. His wife’s mother and brother are uninjured and in an underground shelter, but are close enough to see and hear the devastation.
“They live in west Ukraine and we never would have thought they would be a target, but it’s in all of Ukraine,” he said in an interview Feb. 24. His family originates in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk. “All the airports and military bases all have been hit by airstrikes from the Russian forces.”
“It’s a very horrible time. We’re asking for prayers for peace and to stop war.”
In an interview with The Dialog last month, Father Klanichka predicted the invasion and said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to resurrect the Soviet Union.
“This is what he wants. It’s like he wants to cross off history. He wants to make his own history, like Ukraine doesn’t exist.
“It’s very sad that the world has not come together and stopped him. They’ve tried diplomacy, but it doesn’t help. Issuing sanctions doesn’t help. It doesn’t do anything for him.”
Watching the reporting is frustrating, Father Klanichka said. While he doesn’t believe sanctions will have an impact, he is not hoping for intervention of foreign troops. An end to war is what is preferred, he said, but Ukrainians are prepared to defend their homeland.
“They have to protect their country. They need equipment. Putin doesn’t care about sanctions.”
The 100 families who belong to the local Ukrainian Catholic church are turning to prayer. He said he has discussed a joint prayer service with Father Stephen Hutnick of Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Wilmington.
“They’re praying,” he said of both congregations. Services for peace in Ukraine have been held at St. Nicholas in Wilmington this week and the church remains open.
“It’s a tragic day for all of Europe and in our whole history,” he said. “We can’t even imagine everything that is happening. There is fear for everyone.”