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Viral photo of elderly man hugging life-sized crucifix in Ukraine moves hearts around the world

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Facebook-Dennis Melnichuk

Dariusz Dudec - published on 03/21/22

"We are doing whatever we can to be the hands and feet of Jesus on the ground," said the missionary who captured the image.

A photo of an elderly man hugging a cross in Ukraine has gone viral. The emblematic picture, taken by Dennis Melnichuk in front of a church in Lviv, has been making the rounds of social media for days, and has drawn special attention because the face of the man hugging the cross cannot be seen, but it seems that Christ on the Cross is looking down at him.

The Ukrainian-American missionary who recorded this extraordinary image wrote, “We are doing whatever we can to be the hands and feet of Jesus on the ground.”

The photographer, Dennis Melnichuk, together with his wife, Anna, were in Lviv when, on February 24, they awoke to the ringing of the telephone and learned that the first bombs had fallen in Kiev. They decided to move to Tarnopol in the east of the country. Before leaving, they went to buy necessities and withdraw some money. There were long lines in front of the stores and ATM machines, and they waited patiently amidst other people who, like them, were very worried about the future.

At one point, Dennis’ eyes were drawn to a touching sight. A man in dark clothing approached the large crucifix installed in the square near a convent and hugged it tightly.

The face of the man embracing the cross cannot not be seen in the photo, but the face of the statue of Christ can be seen in profile, and seems to be turned down towards the supplicant.

After a while, the man left the cross and entered a nearby church.

In an interview with the Catholic news agency CNA, Dennis said, “I was feeling my heart quiver with unbelief and shock. Also, I felt faith rising in my heart”.

Dennis and his wife Anna have not fled Ukraine—instead they’re organizing aid for refugees and war victims within the country. “We are getting ready to help people get away and find housing for refugees — whatever we can do to help in this crisis,” he told CNA.

Dennis and Anna are working with a Protestant mission group to which they belong to offer shelter, food and care to all those in need. In his Facebook post, he also asks for prayers:

“Please pray for the protection of Ukraine. For the leaders making decisions. For the civilians in harm’s way. For the weapons used to bring destruction to be jammed or misfire. Pray for peace in the hearts of His people. Jesus is the Lord of the world.”

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