"Here, people start to believe in God"
Father Ivan is 44 years old. In civilian life, he lives in Uzhgorod, works as a judicial vicar, chairs the ecclesiastical tribunal of Mukachevo Greek Catholic diocese. And now, he sits in the trenches near Debaltseve morally supporting our soldiers and helping them to survive all the horrors of war. He has spent in the ATO area 3 months. Now, he is serving in the area of Debaltseve, Chornukhyne, Popasna - the "hottest" spots. Here, our Transcarpathian guys from the 128th mountain and infantry brigade are serving too.
"Terrorists first of all try to kill chaplains and officers"
- Father Ivan, how did you get to the front?
- I have served in the army, so I was not even surprised that I received a call. When, at the military commissariat they learned that I was a priest, they even apologized, but I said that I was ready to serve on one condition: I will not take arms, I'll be a chaplain. I have spent in the ATO area 3 months. Now I am serving in the area of Debaltseve, Chornukhyne, Popasna - the "hottest" spot. Here, our Transcarpathian guys from the 128th mountain and infantry brigade are serving too.
- What do soldiers come to you for?
- Most come for the blessing, comfort and just to talk. On the war, all people become believers. Even those, who previously were staunch atheists, start to believe in God here, to ask for his protection. They see death and blood every day, constantly come under attacks. Many are depressed, especially wounded, disabled in hospitals. Often they ask, "Lord, why did it happen, why us?". I tell them that this whole situation is the fault of the people: their indifference, their greed, their anger, ambitions, desire to enrich themselves.
- So you have to be a good psychologist too...
- Of course. I can not call myself a professional psychologist from the medical point of view, but I received a Master of Philosophy degree at the Carpathian National University, and I also studied psychology at the seminary. Priests acquire good knowledge of psychology willy-nilly, because we often have to communicate with people in difficult times for them and we must know how we can help them.
- Were you not afraid to go to the war?
- I had been on the war before, so I was well aware of what I was going to see. Only fools are not afraid of war. Of course, like any person, I feel fear under fire. But as a spiritual person, I also understand why I'm here. I am not afraid of death itself and try to show it to soldiers, instilling faith and courage in them.
- Do you wear body armor?
- Yes, all the time. Sometimes I take it off when I go to bed. You know, terrorist snipers first of all try to kill chaplains and officers. It is believed that loss of the command and chaplain will lead to loss of morale. But I do not hide under the uniform. I try to stand out, occasionally wear robe so that they could see that I am a priest.
"In the mines, where terrorists had been hiding, we saw so many needles!"
- Are there enough chaplains in the ATO area now?
- In my opinion, very few. In a difficult area of Debaltseve, I work alone. I know that there is a priest about 5 kilometers away from us, and in total, in the 40-kilometer zone in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, there are about 5 priests of Greek Catholic and Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate. I do not know why it is so. Maybe they are afraid or have other reasons.
- You said that you had been on the war before. Yet, have you seen anything that struck you in the current military situation?
- You know, I was more or less aware of where I was going. I knew that it was not a classic war of military with military. But I did not expect to see this. There is a hellish stuff here. In the mines, where the terrorists had been hiding, we saw so many needles! There was even less sleeves than those needles. Our soldiers would catch Chechens, who would tell us something like: "This my land - why you come here?". Then you realize that you're dealing not with patriots but with devilry: mercenaries, willing to kill a person for money, drug addicts and former prisoners who rob, kill and destroy without remorse. Perhaps I was not quite ready for that.
- What do you think of those priests who bless terrorists for the war?
- Blessing for battle, for murder is generally unacceptable. For it is said: thou shall not covet what belongs to other people. This also applies to other people's property and other people's territory. For our part, we bless the military to defend our country and its inhabitants. If a priest blesses terrorists, he is a devil, not a priest. If a priest took up arms and is ready to kill (by the way, here, there are many such "priests" who are openly fighting against the "Nazis"), he is not a priest but KGB in a cassock. They are terrorists themselves, or perhaps even worse than that.
- Have you happened to talk to captured terrorists?
- Yes. Once I was called to them, because they wanted to talk. Those were guys from Russia, recruited by military commissariat. They had been told that in Ukraine Russian-speaking population was exterminated, so they came to fight as volunteers. They had spent only two days in Donbas, and their will to fight had been gone already on the first day when they saw what was really going on here and that terrorists themselves were torturing the Slavs. On the second day, they surrendered. I'm ready to talk with such people, who have been deceived and who have not killed anyone. But, no matter how hard it sounds, there are prisoners, I would never approach.
"Together with the Russian humanitarian aid terrorists received a mobile crematorium"
- Do you often have to hide in dugouts and cellars?
- Very often. Attacks occur every 40-60 minutes, then we hide. Often, there is no telephone communication, it can be difficult to contact the family. So soldiers talk to me. We spend many sleepless nights together, talking about everything. Here, many problems, that troubled them before, become exacerbated. Many of them, for example, as children did not receive enough parents' attention, because they had to work and were always busy. Some are very depressed because of officers' weakness, betrayal of the command. But generally they hold on, fight very decently. This is, though not officially announced, a full-fledged war with Russia. There are many professional military with weapons here. Many Chechens also are fighting. They are considered to be fierce, but in fact in captivity they are the first to tell everything. In particular, prisoners told us that together with the Russian humanitarian aid terrorists received a kind of mobile crematorium - a vehicle in which they burn the bodies of their dead.
- Do you have everything you need on the front line?
- I can not complain. But I really want to thank my friends from Uzhgorod and Serednye who help soldiers, bring them everything they need. Not so long ago, in particular, they brought more than a thousand sets of underwear, warm socks. Now all my men have clean and warm clothes, I do not worry about them. By the way, we are expecting soon another delivery from Mukachevo Greek Catholic diocese and its parishioners. So once again I want to thank all the fellow countrymen for their support.
PS If a priest blesses terrorists, he is a devil, not a priest. If a priest took up arms and is ready to kill (by the way, here, there are many such "priests" who are openly fighting against the "Nazis"), he is not a priest but KGB in a cassock. They are terrorists themselves, or perhaps even worse than that.
Source - newspaper "Uzhgorod" .
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