The critical situation in Ukraine is far from over: months of protest, government aggression and bloodshed, the exiling of a president, and now Russian aggression and invasion. The Ukrainian people have fought hard for their freedom, many paying the ultimate price, and their future is still so uncertain.
One priest, Father Michajlo Dymyd, has not given up. He has been in the thick of the protests on the town square in Kiev since the beginning of the uprising, and he speaks to Aleteia about the situation.
Father Dymyd, could you tell us about the situation over the last few days?
“After the bloodbath a few days ago, now the people are trying to re-find themselves.
Today on the square, hundreds and thousands of men and women have eyes full of sadness but also many questions about their future. Many have also brought flowers in memory of the fallen ones. The young people that have sacrificed themselves for the freedom of Ukraine are called the ‘heavenly platoon’ because the people truly believe in their sacrifice, not only humanly speaking, but also as a sacrifice accepted by the Lord.”
Why has it been important for you to be in the square every day? What has your experience been like amidst the protests?
“I go there first of all to pray, and then to sustain the people. I help them to keep in mind the true reason behind the fight: freedom and dignity. And how do I justify this? Through ways contrary to the gospel? No! Love your neighbour, even your enemy!
“The most important thing is to identify evil and destroy all signs of evil. If I think of the most beautiful thing that has happened here it is the prayer: when one person prayed on the square, all the people joined in prayer, and this didn’t disturb anyone. Each participated in his/her own way, and it was clear that the spirit acted within the people because everyone really understood the prayer of the other.
“Another beautiful thing is that my presence has been much desired by the people, there are people that have even told me that without us priests there would not have been victory. So, I was basically there as an ambassador of the Lord, also because I was able to baptise, confirm, marry, pray for the dead, give absolution to those who were near to dying, I could visit the sick. The square is the ideal place for an intense pastoral work.”
President Yanukovych was elected democratically; now instead, he has been exiled. Is this gesture really useful for the good of the country? Does it not risk taking away a necessary position of power and thus entering into a situation of anarchy?
“I think that Yanukovych was elected democratically but through electoral fixing because it was very strange that he received so many votes. But the best comparison to make would be with Hitler. He too was elected and was chancellor of Germany at that time, but then we all know how that ended…
“Anyway, the problem of the lack of a position of power is almost resolved because the parliament has already fixed presidential elections. In a few months there will be a new president elected democratically.”
Some sustain that Ukraine’s new “revolutionary” government is in the hands of fascists and neo-Nazis; is there any truth in these rumours?
“The Ukrainian people are peaceful and will not create any kind of extremism. But the thing to clarify is the concept of nationalism. Here in Ukraine, patriotism is called nationalism, so the nationalist is not in fact extremist! They only want the good for their homeland and not the bad of others’ homelands.
“Ukraine is young, it is only 22 years old and has Poland as a close ally who accepts it and helps in the proclamation of the Ukrainian state. But then unfortunately there are nations like Russia who try to oppose our independence. “
What does the future look like for this nation?
“A nation stuck in slavery needs future generations to overcome this condition. There is a great challenge for the intellectuals, the mass media, institutions, churches: to help each Ukrainian to be free, to learn how to know freedom. And the role of Europe is fundamental in this.
“I am, however, aware that there will be much work to do to get back to normality, above all from the cultural viewpoint and mentality. For this, I believe that only when the last monument of Lenin is destroyed, will our people be in a position to begin conceiving themselves in full freedom.”
What responsibilities does the Church have now in Ukraine?
“It should it be educating its children towards freedom…
“Saint Augustine said ‘My heart will not have peace until it finds you Lord.’ The Church should talk about the true sense of freedom: to be able to do good. If I do good then I am free. If I do not want to do good then I am not free. And when can we be free? When we are in a relationship with the Creator, because freedom is to go towards the Creator, because we are wanted and loved by Him. Each person has to ask him/herself the question: ‘Am I free?’ ‘What have I done for my neighbour?’ ‘Am I in a relationship with my Creator?’ This is freedom to which the Church should educate.”
Corrado Paolucci, Solene Tadie, Ary Ramos, Sara Ferretti contributed to this report.