Preamble 

Liliya Berezhnaya opens up her article: Imago hostis: Friends and Foes in Ruthenian and Russian Printmaking (Mid-Seventeenth – Beginning of the Eighteenth Centuries), with words particularly poignant as I now sit down to write this piece. Berezhnaya states: “Not a single war occurs without enemy image construction. In the social sciences, particularly psychology, this process is called “enmification”, which presumes stereotyping, selective perception, mirror imaging of the enemy, dehumanization, or causal attribution. These processes are inherent in human relations in general. But wartime accelerates their polarization.” (Liliya Berezhnaya, in Plokhy, 2012, p. 309)

Whereas Bereshanya’s article was a reflection on the effects of the Battle of Poltava, the disturbing speech that Vladimir Putin delivered to the Russian people [and through them to the world], on the eve of his ‘peace-keeping mission’ into Ukraine, in late February 2022, ominously contained many of the sinister trademarks of a diatribe from Adolf Hitler, and much of what Berezhnaya termed as – “enmification”. Putin’s outright rejection of Ukrainian national sovereignty mimicked Hitler’s genocidal paradigm that there should not be a Jewish people – hence leading to the eventual consequence of the Holocaust. To justify his invasion of Ukraine – Putin first built up a picture of Ukraine and Ukrainians, being NAZI’s and drug-addicts, and whatever else – in order to sculptor a reason for killing them.

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It is all too clear now that any treaty that Putin ever signed as President in regard to Ukraine, in the past, was in fact a lie – as a treaty is signed by two equal parties, and by Putin’s admission he does not, and has not ever recognized Ukraine outside that of being an integral  province of a 21st Century Russian fiefdom. Moreover it is quite obvious as well to see why events in Ukraine’s past such as the Holodomor, occurred. In short, Ukrainians are irrelevant to the grander scheme of ‘Mother’ Russia, and still further, they are an anachronism to Putin’s contemporary reformulation of the territory once known as the Soviet Union.

What we have today in 2022 is the terrifying actuality of a programme of mass genocide being allowed to happen in the cradle of Western Civilization – Europe. It would appear that we learned little or nothing from either the Holocaust or the Holodomor, if such leaders are still raised, appointed, ‘elected’, traded with, and permitted to commit atrocities?

Putin’s fallacious supposition that Ukraine is a creation of Russia, stands against the texts of history – that for a millennia refer to the people of Kyiv and Ukraine, a people with a: distinctive language, a beautiful culture and an ancient Church – at its Spiritual Heart. All of which after Putin has attempted to completely raze these facets of Ukrainian identity – can be said by him, to have never existed.

That Putin’s anomalous speech resembles that of Hitler, yet all the while claiming the goal of de-Nazifying Ukraine, can be reflected upon in the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20, RSV). We see now how much ‘peace’ was involved in the ‘peace-keeping mission’, as we view hours of television footage, of shattered and shelled cities, and hundreds of thousands of women and children fleeing from their homes on foot, into the bitter cold as refugees. Christ once said that the quality of a man is judged solely by the fruit he bears – good fruit from a good tree, bad fruit from a bad tree. (cf. Matthew 7: 17 – 18, RSV) Putin’s hand has sculpted the human misery of the war in Ukraine. Before he gave the order – Ukraine was a land of peace. (cf. Proverbs 21: 7 – 8, RSV) 

The democratic nations of the world understand Ukraine and its people as being autochthonous. Lies can cover the truth – but they can never become – the Truth.

St. Paul, writes in his Letter to the Ephesians: “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6: 12, RSV) It is clear that the same spirit that possessed Hitler, and Stalin, and Pol Pot, has also taken hold of the souls of tyrants up until this day. The so-termed ‘isms’ are quite irrelevant; it is what possesses an individual’s heart and soul that determines public policy. In fact if we study the faces of tyrants, we begin to see them as the same – be they white or black, blonde, bald or brunette. They all are of the same progeny. How apt are Christ’s words: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8: 44, RSV). Murder and lies – have always been tied to one another: “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4: 9, RSV) The murderer and liar tries as he might by doubling his conscience, over and over again, to hide the stain of sin – he knows that he may fool himself, but also knows that God is watching – thus history’s greatest tyrants, in the end – disregard God. They must. For God knows them – in their nakedness, without medals, crowns, ermine and velvet, yachts and palaces. Where are all these great tyrants of the past? They are dust; perhaps in golden coffins – but their temporal remains are still dust, however they are enclosed. But where are their souls? Christ tells us: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10: 28, RSV)

What Putin and his followers fail to understand is that Ukraine is not land or buildings, or culture, or language – Ukraine lives in the rich soil of the hearts and souls of its people; from L’viv to Kharkiv, from Chernihiv to Kherson. Ukraine lived through the Holodomor – it is an irrepressible force. But also, Ukraine now lives in the hearts of those who have witnessed her suffering – spawning in the people all over the world, who have seen the struggles of Ukrainian citizens a wish that they too, can call themselves Ukrainian, and be as courageous as the Ukrainian people are in fighting for: liberty, Faith, identity and national character. 

Like the Zaporozhian Cossacks of the past, Ukraine is now calling to her Host, freedom-lovers, democrats, and freedom-fighters throughout the world to help her in a time of need. The Zaporozhian Cossacks were in the majority of cases, Ukrainian – but there was also among them a significant non-Ukrainian demographic.

Spiritual leaders of the world are crying out. On Sunday the 6th of March, 2022, Pope Francis spoke to the Faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, that: “’Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine. This is not just a military operation but a war which is sowing death, destruction and misery.’” Similarly, Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa, also addressed his Faithful, during the week: “Putin thinks he’s the emperor of our times. Power can get you drunk. And the great authoritarian power blinds the eyes and you forget that you are human. It is not possible to cross yourself, pray to God, and at the same time kill children and people in general”. Patriarch Theodore calls for the stripping away of the veneer, to expose true Faith, rather than layer upon layer of hypocrisy. Anyone can draw the sign of the Cross – but no Christian can perpetrate nor tolerate the slaughter of the innocents. (cf. Jeremiah 31:15, RSV)

Tyrants may seek to fool the world, and perhaps there are some who wish out of expediency, to be fooled by them – but God is no fool. God sees. God cares. God judges. God saves. It is to God we pray for Ukraine. ATK

[A]

It would be quite easy to condemn Mazepa for a series of reckless love affairs – but few men can honestly say that over the course of their lives they have loved consistently wisely and well.

One of the interesting legacies of Mazepa’s love-affair with his ‘turtle-dove’ Motria Kocchubei, is what Serhiy Plokhy includes in his text: Poltava 1709: The Battle and the Myth (2012), as a brilliant insight into Mazepa’s mind. Plokhy quotes Michael Flier, who writes: “Mazepa … was waging his battle for Motria’s love in the most polished Ukrainian that the sixteen year-old object of his affection could understand. The rhetorical cliches, the folkloric rhythms, the Polonisms, and occasional Slovonicisms do not alter this basic premise. Russian appears to have played absolutely no role in these missives …” (Plokhy, 2012, p. xxi) We cannot judge Mazepa’s romance with Motria by 21st Century standards. Motria was of marriageable age. That it wasn’t a wise course of action, or an ecclesiastically moral action, is another thesis, as to affairs of the heart. Mazepa’s love-letters however do highlight that when it came to that which he was most passionate about – Mazepa chose not only Ukrainian, but linguistically exquisite Ukrainian to convey meaning. In a present age where so many scholars reflect on the beauty of Russian literature – pre-Poltava, a man as educated as Mazepa, was using the Ukrainian language as an art form. Mazepa, was Ukrainian at the very depth of his heart. Michael A. Moser in his, A Linguistic Analysis of Ivan Mazepa’s Universals and Letters, concludes: “Generations later, however, when late nineteenth and early twentieth-century awakeners began to establish the functionality of Ukrainian in the sphere of administration, they were able to do this in full awareness of the former status of their language, a status that had been fully granted for the last time during the hetmancy of Ivan Mazepa.” (Moser in Plokhy, 2012, p. 408) Mazepa’s defeat not only had severe political ramifications – but as we have just seen, cultural-linguistic consequences – and also ecclesiastical ones. After Mazepa’s demise, the use of the Ukrainian language, began a steady demise, slowly relegated to the language of the village or family home. This is what makes the writings of the 19th Century poet, Taras Shevchenko (1814 – 1861) so breath-taking. The genius of Shevchenko was that he took the language of the under-class and gave it a status among European and world literature. From out of the ashes – there grew a diamond.

In another Chapter of Plokhy’s work, we read Giovanna Broge Bercoff writing in – Poltava: A Turning Point in the History of Preaching, about the ramifications of Mazepa’s defeat. She writes: “Another question arises. Between October 1708 and July 1709 Iavors’kyi and his fellow Ukrainian hierarchs of the Petrine era must have spent dreadful months in fear for their positions, their very lives, and the institutions that they represented. Indeed, no church hierarch was able to offer active resistance to the tsar on behalf of the man [Mazepa] who had dared refuse obedience to the authority of the legal sovereign…At the same time it is difficult to imagine that those who had been Mazepa’s associates or had received benefits from him were not aware of the terrible loss that the hetman’s end would spell for the Kyivian church and the Mohyla Academy, and for the Hetmanate as well. They had lost the man [Mazepa] who had brought them success in culture and society; he was the protector of the church, patron of art and literature, and the man who had fostered the ideas and the intellectual world in which they lived. In this situation, did Iavors’kyi – or the other churchmen in this same circle – ever really think about what the history of Mazepa and his anathematization meant for the future of Ukraine? Or was their concern limited to their own fates and that of the Mohyla Academy and the intellectual and spiritual world in which they lived?” (Bercoff, 2012, p. 212) The Ukrainian hierarchs for the most part acted as chameleons – they were products of Mazepa’s benificence; they owed him their education, and ecclesiastical status; but few wished to bring upon themselves the wrath of the Tsar; especially so after the Metropolitan of Kyiv, Krokovs’kyi, found himself the subject of an official Tsarist investigation and died en-route to the Muscovite Court.

As the Battle of Poltava is famous for Mazepa’s defeat, it is equally infamous for the massacre of Baturyn – an action that sits in the annals of shame alongside Hitler’s destruction of Lidice in World War II. The Baturyn massacre was a war crime – an attempt by Moscow to kill the Ukrainian spirit.  Many have attempted to crush the Ukrainian spirit – but none have succeeded. It is to the events of Baturyn we now turn.

May God Bless Ukraine!

By Dr. Andrew Thomas Kania

 

 

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