Two monks in the war-torn city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, have spoken about their decision to remain and minister to the sick and elderly – despite knowing each day could be their last.
Father Ignatius Moskalyuk, rector of the Basilian Monastery of St Volodymyr the Great, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that he refused to abandon his remaining parishioners even during catastrophic flooding after the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka Dam.
Father Moskalyuk said: “Those who stayed behind were the elderly, the sick and also the young who had nowhere else to go, as well as those who had been caught in Kherson by the war. We cannot leave these people alone.”
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic monastery helps people by distributing aid and providing pastoral care for those in need.
Fr Moskalyuk said that the faithful also continue to visit the monastery to ask for the sacraments of baptism, marriage and confession :
“Every day we have around 25 or 30 people receiving communion at Mass, including young people and children. This fills us with joy.
“The sacrifice that [my fellow monk] Brother Pious and I made during the occupation is now bearing fruit.”
When he first heard about the destruction of the nearby hydro-electric dam, Father Moskalyuk and his parishioners “faced this new situation just as we had [at] the beginning of the war – nothing could shake our trust in God, in our Lord.
“And so we really began to trust in God and put all these things that were happening, and anything that might happen because of the flooding, in his hands.”
He added: “Of course, it was terrible to see buildings being destroyed before our eyes, animals drowning, and attempts to rescue people who had been trapped in their houses.
“But our trust in God remained firm, as did our certainty that evil cannot prevail and that the Lord, our God will give us the strength to withstand, just as we withstood the occupation.
“Therefore, my heart was at peace.”
Father Moskalyuk said that the monastery was not damaged by the war or the flood.
He explained: “Everything works, we have food, we lack nothing, thank God.
“During the occupation I learnt to trust God more. Before, I also trusted him, but not as strongly as I do now.
“I thank God that I can sacrifice my life every day.
“I would also like to thank ACN, especially for helping us to purchase a vehicle, which is indispensable for our pastoral work, especially now in this difficult situation.”
Kherson has been targeted by Russian troops since the beginning of the war. Ukrainian media is reporting that the region was attacked 59 times yesterday (Saturday 8 July) with 334 missiles being fired.