Crosses on the floor in the middle of brick fragments and icons “wounded” by shelling – this is what almost half a thousand Ukrainian churches look like after the Russian attacks.
Churches, monasteries, mosques and synagogues mutilated by Russia demonstrate how cynical its invasion of Ukraine is, emphasized in Washington during the opening of the exhibition “Destroyed Churches of Ukraine”. The exhibition takes place as part of Ukraine Week in Washington, when Ukrainian activists and non-governmental organizations hold a series of events and meetings in the US capital to draw attention to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Who does Russia actually consider its enemy and what is it fighting against in Ukraine
People who still believe that Russia seeks to protect “traditional values” and spirituality should see this photo exhibition
For such an exhibition, Ukrainian museum workers have collected photographic evidence that, in fact, the main enemy for Russia is freedom in general and religious freedom in particular.
“People who still believe that Russia seeks to protect “traditional values” and spirituality should see this photo exhibition,” the head of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience emphasized Victor Yelenskyi.
Russia destroyed more than 500 churches, monasteries, mosques, synagogues and other sacred buildings in Ukraine and killed dozens of clergymen.
Almost all denominations were affected, and the Orthodox churches of the Moscow Patriarchate suffered the most.
The Russians are at war with the churches. Because in the church people clearly understand where is good and where is evil
“Most of the churches destroyed by Russia are churches of the UOC, a so-called friendly church. And they are destroyed. They were not stopped by the fact that there were people who did not want to quarrel with them”, – noted the senior bishop of the Ukrainian Christian Churches “New Generation” Andriy Tyshchenko.
“Why are they fighting the churches? – the pastor asks. – Because in the church people clearly understand where is good and where is evil. And all true believers actually immediately condemned the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.”
“Russians are fighting against faith and believers – this is an objective reality”, – this is how one of the organizers of the Ukrainian Week in Washington described the conclusion from the photo evidence presented at the exhibition Vitaly Orlovthe founder of the “Protectors of Ukraine” prayer movement.
None of the 300 bishops of Russia opposed the war
On the other hand, none of the 300 bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate of Russia spoke out against the war, while the churches, including those under their jurisdiction, are being destroyed, the bishop emphasized during the opening of the exhibition Boris Gudziak, Archbishop and Metropolitan of Philadelphia.
The destruction of the churches shows how cynical and diabolical this invasion, this war, is
He also added that Russia encroached on what is sacred for practically every resident of the communities whose churches were destroyed:
“The church is a place where families, people, the community experience the most touching, most heartfelt, most intimate moments: baptisms, funerals, weddings, some holidays, prayers for what hurts, what we need.
The destruction of those churches shows how cynical, reckless, how devilish is this invasion, this war, this aggression against Ukraine, blessed, unfortunately, by the Moscow Patriarch Kirill, blessed by the whole church.”
War against spiritual values, not for their protection – destroyed temples refute propaganda narratives
Russian propaganda still actively convinces that the Russian government protects spiritual values, but its actions have long independently proved the opposite, states the head of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience Viktor Yelenskyi:
“In reality, Russia does not value human life, Russia is the world champion in terms of abortions, Russia is the world champion in alcoholism, drunken suicides, criminal offenses, and the number of abandoned children. It is not the last in the list of countries in the world according to the index of charity, that is, people do not donate.”
He also voiced the reason why, in his opinion, Russians are destroying churches, killing priests, and bombing Jewish cemeteries and Muslim mosques:
“They stop at nothing, because freedom in general and religious freedom is their main enemy.”
“Good morning” – the message of a Russian priest to a Ukrainian priest during a missile attack
Russian churchmen consecrate rockets flying at peaceful Ukrainian cities
Denis Senykthe deputy ambassador of Ukraine to the USA drew the attention of those present to an impressive and telling fact:
“Russian churchmen sanctify Russian weapons that go to Ukraine, missiles that fly at peaceful Ukrainian cities, tanks that go through our territories, there were many examples when the priests of the Russian church in Ukraine refused to eulogize Ukrainian heroes who died in the war, defending his homeland Therefore, this exhibition today clearly reminds us of the crimes carried by Russian aggression, which has the full support of its Russian church, and in fact, I want to say that there is nothing holy there at all.”
The diplomat also gave a personal example from the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine:
“My brother is an Orthodox priest. On the very first day of the war, he received a message from a Russian priest. On February 24, when Russian troops had already entered Ukraine, Russian missiles had already bombed our cities, a Russian pip wrote to my brother: “Good morning.” And he finished the sentence with a smiley face. That’s all you need to know about Russia’s real intentions.”
“It is easy for people outside of Ukraine to postpone the war to the “library of abstractness”
In order to collect photos of wounded churches for such an exhibition, several partner initiatives were involved, in particular, a group of museum workers visited the churches as part of the initiative to preserve Ukrainian religious and cultural heritage. The group of enthusiasts is headed by the director general of the National Museum of the Revolution of Dignity, coordinator of the Heritage Rescue Headquarters (HERI) Ihor Poshivaylosaid the counselor of the Embassy of Ukraine in the USA Kateryna Smaglii.
“For us, Ukrainian diplomats, such a visualization here in Washington, on Capitol Hill, is extremely important, because you can constantly cite numbers, talk about the number of people killed, but it is enough to see once in order to understand what the Russian army is actually bringing to Ukrainian soil the so-called “measure” that the Kremlin is persistently imposing on us today on our lands,” explains Kateryna Smaglii.
Vladyka also told why it is so important to show these footage to the Americans and what impact this exhibition can have in the USA Boris Gudziak:
“It’s very easy for people outside of Ukraine, who hear about 10 years of war, two years of a full-scale invasion, about this destruction, about daily rockets, to put it in the library of abstraction.
Well, there is a big war, it changed the price of our oil, it affected diplomacy, politics globally, that is, there is something so big. And when we see that the house of God, concrete, beautiful and historical, where maybe I got married or someone was baptized, is so disfigured, we begin to understand the depth of this evil, of this wickedness.
And now in Washington, when decisions are being made in this city regarding support for Ukraine – economic, humanitarian and defense support – it is very important that this exhibition takes place here.”
How to keep the faith
Boris Gudziak he also answered the question of how not to lose faith at a time when children and young soldiers have been dying from the war for two years, and churches and residential buildings are constantly being destroyed:
On Friday, February 2, we celebrate the Meeting of the Lord – this is a holiday about the meeting: God comes to man. Not “to the royal chamber”, as we sang in the Ukrainian carol, but to where it is cold, where there is exile, where there is bloodshed, where there is the murder of the children of Bethlehem.
God is with us right here.
And I want to encourage all viewers and listeners: find a moment of peace, light a candle, go to church and you will feel that you are loved by God, that God loves those who are in trouble in a special way. Because he comes to them, he meets them at Christmas, at Strytenna, in general in our life.”
The authors of the photo exhibition assure that the destroyed temples “will be revived in glory and power.”