There are about 50 fallen heroes from the war in Eastern Ukraine in Lviv’s Lychakiv Cemetery. There are very many other cemeteries around Ukraine which also have fresh graves of those who died defending Ukraine’s integrity.
On September 7, 2016, all the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church went to the Lviv cemetery to meet the survivors of Ukraine’s fallen soldiers. Most of the families and friends of each of the heroes were present. We prayed with them, and then each of us went up to the graves to meet the loved ones who were there. The whole meeting lasted for over 2 and a half hours. We had plenty of time to talk with many people. Who came to Lychakiv that evening? – parents, wives, children, grandparents, friends, and former co-workers.
Who were these men and women who were buried there? They were sons, husbands, fathers, grandchildren, sons of priests, business men, a former monk, an opera singer, partners, patriots, volunteers and soldiers. They all had only died recently in the war of aggression in Eastern Ukraine.
Traveling to the cemetery, I was wondering what I was going to say to these people who came to mourn. I should not have worried. I just said, “Слава Ісусу Христу!” and the people themselves did all the talking. I just had to listen. They wanted to talk and they needed to talk. So what did I hear from these various mourners gathered at the graves?
“Thank you for coming from all over the world to be with us today. Thank you for caring. It means so much to us”.
“I am scared. Loud sounds scare me. I hear noises all night”.
“Why did God allow this? We were very good Greek Catholics. We defended the Church in the underground. Why did God allow this”.
“ You are so free. I can tell by looking at the tourists in Ukraine. They are free. They do not fear. We are not free”.
“ Our children are different. They are free.”
“ Our heroes did not die in vain. We will all change one day. We will be free.”
“This is not a sad occasion. I see hope. I see God. We will live. God is with Us.”
“The opera singer had such a future before him. What a sacrifice he made. What a hero.”
“We are so grateful that the world is with us.”
In conclusion I add: Pray for those who have fallen.
Pray for their loved ones.
Pray for Ukraine.
God is with us!
Bishop Peter Stasiuk