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In Ukraine, I witnessed unity, sacrificial love, and the unbroken spirit of a people

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As a Ukrainian-born American priest, I could not quite foresee what I would find when I walked into my war-torn homeland a few weeks ago to offer support. The struggle is brutal, costly and painful, but ordinary citizens, soldiers and ministers are united in a gross will to hold on to this unjust and unprovoked assault.

The fight is far from over. It may even be just the beginning, but my time in Ukraine has confirmed one thing I already knew – the spirit of Ukraine and her people will never be broken.

I entered Ukraine through Poland and spent the night near the border with Belarus. This was my first experience with military checkpoints and for me the first sign that Ukraine is at war.

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In northwestern Ukraine, local villagers opened their homes for me without reservation and I was given a safe place to sleep and three meals. This is the Ukraine I know and love – Ukrainian hospitality on display. Donations and supplies filled my van, ready to be distributed across the country to those traumatized by the violence.

Andrew Moroz is a Ukrainian-born priest in Lynchburg, Virginia.  In April 2022, he traveled to Ukraine to provide assistance.

Andrew Moroz is a Ukrainian-born priest in Lynchburg, Virginia. In April 2022, he traveled to Ukraine to provide assistance.

From there, I traveled to Kiev, where I joined a group of brave volunteers who have acquired, sorted, and provided assistance to those living in conflict areas.

One day we drove six hours to a city that had just been liberated from Russian forces. All around us we saw the carnage of war: destroyed military equipment, damaged buildings and wounded people. Hundreds gathered to receive food and supplies. In addition to physical care, our team was able to provide spiritual and emotional care.

Andrew Moroz is a Ukrainian-born priest in Lynchburg, Virginia.  He is seen here on a visit in April 2022 to Ukraine to help distribute aid.

Andrew Moroz is a Ukrainian-born priest in Lynchburg, Virginia. He is seen here on a visit in April 2022 to Ukraine to help distribute aid.

Our message was simple: “You are not alone. God has not forgotten you. God loves you. We love you.” This was a moving experience. I will never forget the tired faces of the people we served and the courage of the frontline volunteers.

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Courage would be the common thread woven through my week in Ukraine.

When we returned to the western border, my team was stopped several times by the Ukrainian military and detained for further questioning. At one point we were lost. It was getting late when we were stopped with military weapons and our identity was checked again.

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This tense moment left an impression and left me with deep respect and gratitude for those who protect the people of Ukraine. They work tirelessly to identify and eliminate any threat to Ukrainian sovereignty.

Andrew Moroz is a Ukrainian-born priest in Lynchburg, Virginia.  He is seen here distributing aid in Ukraine in April 2022.

Andrew Moroz is a Ukrainian-born priest in Lynchburg, Virginia. He is seen here distributing aid in Ukraine in April 2022.

My last stop was southwestern Ukraine. There I came in contact with groups of volunteers in churches and local businesses, everyday heroes who gather necessary supplies for conflict zones.

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Ordinary people sacrifice their time and personal resources to help others in need. I shared a meal with a family who had opened their home to a group of refugees from eastern Ukraine.

I witnessed unity and sacrificial love throughout this crisis-stricken country. I experienced it myself, and will never be the same.

Ukrainian soldiers run on top of an armored tank on Tuesday, while Russia's attack on Ukraine continues at an unknown location in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers run on top of an armored tank on Tuesday, while Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues at an unknown location in eastern Ukraine.
(Press service for the Ukrainian land forces / distribution via REUTERS)

After a week in Ukraine, I realize that I should have known what I could expect all the time, because that is what I have always known to the core of my being: Ukraine will overcome because her people are kind, robust and above all brave.

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They are fierce warriors defending their children, their lives and their freedom. They have understood what we are beginning to understand in the United States – that this conflict is not just about Ukraine. It’s about the dignity of human life, it’s about freedom and it’s about democracy all over the world.

The horrific stories from places like Bucha and Irpin remind us that freedom often comes at the awfully high cost of human life.

We can not turn away and we can not allow our hearts to get cold. Ukraine is zero in the fight against the darkness of tyranny. We must do everything we can, regardless of the cost, to stand with Ukraine.

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We can share their burden. We can join the Ukrainians in the struggle with our prayers, finances and essential resources to sustain their work.

I stand with Ukraine. Do you want to join me?

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