Svitlana Hurkina detailed the devastating impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war, including the death, injury, and abduction of Ukrainian citizens.
“There are 205 children killed, 373 wounded, and about 108,000 abducted to Russia among more than 500,000 Ukranians,” said Hurkina, a professor of church history at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU).
Three other panelists joined Hurkina at a webinar on Thursday, titled The View from the Ground: Perspectives from Ukraine, which was organized by the Special Task Force on Ukraine, UGBC, and the Office of Global Engagement. Julia Spagnola, UGBC vice president–elect and MCAS ’23, and Katie Mahowski Mylroie, a doctoral student at BC, moderated the event.
Pavlo Smytsnyuk, director of UCU’s Institute of Ecumenical Studies, spoke about how he followed the war from New York through contact with his family and colleagues.
“I was in a way following the war as every American—through CNN, Facebook—but also in constant contact with my colleagues at the institute and my family,” Smytsnyuk said.
In his efforts to support Ukraine while in New York, Smytsnyuk said he facilitated meetings between Ukrainian churches and international ecumenical organizations to garner support for Ukrainians, providing necessary resources and transportation out of Ukraine. He also worked with UCU on a project that organized solidarity meetings with students in Ukraine and students abroad.
“This allows us to, even in the moment of war, be connected … members of one big body that is embracing and loving us,” Smytsnyuk said.
Adriana Hrytsyna, a student at UCU and panel participant, said that before the war Ukraine was divided into two groups—those who believed that Russia would attack and those who didn’t.
“Sometimes people even told me that I was just trying to scare them and that I shouldn’t worry about it at all, because it will never happen,” Hrytsyna said. “But then on the 24th of February … Ukraine was under bombing.”
Vitaly Osmolovski, S.J., a Polish Jesuit of a Ukrainian background, spoke about his work coordinating a team of Jesuits to create refugee houses and provide support for other humanitarian organizations.
“The priority of the team is to deliver aid to Ukraine,” Osmolovski said. “We have contact with organizations from other countries which help Ukraine. We have helped several of them to deliver large humanitarian transport to the appropriate places on the border.”
Osmolovski said he and the team continue to work with countries willing to host refugees from Ukraine, helping to transport refugees and provide support along their journeys.
Through this difficult time, Hurkina said she finds comfort in prayer and her faith.
“I pray as a way of connecting to those who are not in safety, and I’m also praying a lot for those people who died,” Hurkina said.
Smytsnyuk said that finding one’s own comfort and hope during this conflict can help people better support others around them.
“One of our tasks as Jesuits is to support and find in every person, without exception, the light of peace,” Smytsnyuk said. “We can help and give a light of hope to all our Ukrainians, refugees, and also for ourselves.”