Up Front and Personal

The Second Day of The War in Ukraine

In last week’s edition of The Tablet, Father Motruk wrote about his family’s troubles on the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This column testifies to the growing concerns after the initial shock of the war.

By Father Mykola Motruk

“Attention! Air raid siren! Everyone down to the shelter!”

An unfinished algorithm lights up as you quickly get dressed and run to check if all the students have woken up and are descending to the bomb shelter. There is no time for panic or fear.

On the way down, I look for my students, even though we had already agreed to meet in the same place. When I find them, I do a roll call: Everyone is in place. I exhale in relief.

Thoughts come to my mind: Why do young people and children have to live this experience? Why are they forced to spend their mornings and days in Lviv at the Catholic University of Ukraine?

I remember that this is Europe, but the reality is that here and now there is a war. In my country, the civilian population suffers Russian aggression. We endure and we will endure as much as we can. But we cannot guarantee which country will be the next victim.

The third, fourth and subsequent days follow a similar scenario. Several air raid alarms a day. Constant conversations with students whose parents stayed in the cities where thebombings took place. I remember the words of one of them: “Mom, how are you? Did you hear an air raid alert? Did you take warm clothes? Mom, how come you heard it and didn’t hide? This is not training, this is war.”

The first information about our losses will appear, photos of destroyed cities, houses and victims. These people have paid a high price not only for freedom and sovereignty, but also for preserving the values that identify us as humans.

The stories of murders of peaceful families, volunteers bringing food to the needy, very little children who do not represent any threat to the enemy, show the true face of the “liberators.” They “liberate” people by taking their lives. The words of our president still echo in my head, “How many more peaceful people must die before you close the sky over Ukraine?”

Here in Lviv, we do not yet experience that bitter reality firsthand. Its echoes reach us through the refugees, as well as with the bodies of the heroes, who began to be transferred to be buried in the place of their origin.

To receive them we go down on our knees, with all possible honors, but can that reduce the pain of a mother who has lost a child?

Browsing through the news, I see that someone has slipped in the statement that we will count the dead and we will be able to mourn them only after the victory. … An incomprehensible feeling passes through my heart. … I understand that the price is already too high: thousands of human lives are at stake, people who had a life project, concerns, love? In the meantime, for now, we all hold on, because we under- stand that we are the rearguard for those who protect us. … For those who are daily between life and death.

And what will happen when we realize the true price of victory? A victory that is impossible without uniting all the countries of the world and without your help. It is true! We are infinitely grateful for the support for Ukraine from the whole world. But sometimes it seems that this is not enough. It seems that there is not enough understanding of the real threat, that my nation, Ukraine, has become a shield for the whole world.

Father Mykola Motruk is a Byzantine rite priest of the Greek-Catholic diocese of Kolmyia, Ukraine, and a teacher at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. He has been married for one year and is expecting his first child.