Fr. Mariusz Krawiec SSP talks with the auxiliary bishop of charkowsko-zaporoska diocese in Ukraine Jan Sobiło – a coordinator of a humanitarian action ‘Pope for Ukraine’, organized by the Holy See

FR. MARIUSZ KRAWIEC SPP: – What is the situation in eastern Ukraine like now?

BISHOP JAN SOBIŁO: – A war is there. We have recently been in Ukraine with the apostolic nuncio archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, in Donieck and Ługańsk. We heard shots from mortars and machine guns. The war goes in full swing. The wounded are transported to Dniepr, Charków and Zaporoże, there are also killed. Not only is the conflict still going on, but we are also feeling its escalation. People are terribly tired of this situation. There are more and more people leaving that area.

– What is the Church doing towards this conflict? We know that last year the Holy Father organized a collection action of funds within the action ‘Pope for Ukraine’.

– The support we receive from the Holy Father is very important to me. People feel more and more left behind by the international society. During his visit to Donieck and Ługańsk the nuncio assured them that he prayed for them and reminded that a new day always comes after night. People appreciate the fact that the Pope remembers about them during various audiences and prayer meetings. These gestures are very appreciated here and they cheer up everybody, regardless of who it is: a Catholic or an Orthodox or a Protestant. Here I must add that the war really united us – the Christians of various religions. We help one another. One day help is brought by an Orthodox priest, another time by a Catholic priest, a few days later by the Protestants.

– Does the war bring people closer to God?

– It might seem that the war makes the man go away from God. Somebody might ask the question: where is God if there is so much suffering around? What I am observing is the fact that the war in Donbas favours reflection on the life sense. A lot of those people who have found their way to the Church now, might have never discovered it if there was peace. First communism was built here, then local oligarchs began to create the post-soviet reality. And now we see ruins of beautiful buildings, deserted today and unnecessary. One can only look at concrete stumps of an airport in Donieck or what has remained after one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world, where there used to be important sport events, among the others, matches during the football Euro 2012. Today lorries arrive here with humanitarian help, and also there are long queues for grits and flour.

– How do soldiers perceive it?

– Seeing this complicated political situation, so often contradictory businesses of oligarchs, many soldiers, are opening up to God and perceive that it is only Him who can give them real happiness and peace. I remember talking with one of soldiers. He told me that even at that time when there were strong shots around, and he had had confession so he was not afraid of anything. In such situations God gives inner courage. In Donbas people often come up to priests and ask for a prayer and blessing. They wear the cross, have a rosary with them and pray more often. In these conditions people feel particular love, which they get from God. It was the evil spirit who wrote the scenario of this war and pushed the man into it. But the Heavenly Father does not leave us. This is a kind of a mysticism, found by people who have never thought of faith before. A lot of people say about a kind of an interesting experience: they often had such an inner inspiration to move to another place. Soon, after they had, a bomb fell down onto the place where they had been standing. Long time ago, they would not have known how to call it. Today they say that inspiration came from the Holy Spirit. During that war there is also such a conversion, which completely changes a man’s lifestyle.

– How does Bishop talk with young exhausted men who are returning their homes from war? They do not cope with themselves, with challenges which are given to them by their families and society. Then a lot of them escape to alcohol or aggression….

– When in the initial phase of this war I was in the United States with a delegation of Christian Churches from our area, one of congressmen asked me about what – in my opinion – biggest problem would be after the war. I said that probably rebuilding houses, etc. However, he answered: No! The biggest problem will be rebuilding people’s psyche. And soon after that talk I saw that it was just so. I talk with young soldiers who have see various cruelties of the war; or with those who were injured forever. And a lot of them say that they cannot find themselves now. In fact a lot of them escape to alcohol, a lot of them cannot get on well with others at home. Unfortunately, it often happens that a family is not prepared for such a situation. Relatives react inadequately which raises tensions. At that time a prayer is necessary. A prayer heals. It is good to encourage a soldier for a prayer or invite him to participate in a prayer group. When he joins the group, nobody asks him about anything. Nobody discusses his problem. The group simply prays. And a deep and sincere confession is very important in this case. We organize, often to the request of these men, trips to various sanctuaries. We have been on a few trips to Medjugorie and I must admit that they brought beautiful fruits. I am surprised, seeing those men who return their homes after the pilgrimage being calm and able for a normal life. Mary can work on their hearts and heal them.

– When Bishop is standing at a grave of a soldier, what prayer does he say in this place?

– A prayer is particular here, various thoughts come to my mind then. I often pray at a grave of a soldier whose family do not know yet that he was killed in a fight. Maybe it is still the same time when his relatives are praying for his return home. A prayer for those who were killed for homeland is particular. When praying, I often feel the presence of the soul of this man. God sometimes gives such a grace that one can ‘hear’ his unpronounced words, words of a man who was not always close to God at the moment of his death and his heart was not always ready for meeting with death. I feel how Divine Mercifulness is triumphing then. God wants to find a little good in a man at least, so as to rewards it. When praying I feel hope that death of this man is valuable in God’s eyes. Evil, which began a hundred years ago with the October revolution, ends with this war. Mary in Fatima asked for a prayer in the intention of conversion of Russia. And now this war – this last attack of the evil spirit, who wants to revel at the end. When I am praying for the souls of those who were killed at this war, I feel that they belong to a group of the last martyrs, who are inscribed in a group of the killed during a strong persecution of the Church in the Soviet Union. This cup of martyrs’ blood is just being fulfilled. These are a kind of the last blood drops needed for God’s triumph through Mary’s Heart.

* * *

Fr. Mariusz Krawiec SSP
is a correspondent for a Polish section of the Vatican Radio from Ukraine


„Niedziela” 28/2017

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: