Ukrainian Priest in Czechia Says War Changed His People

Marian Kurilo |  Photo: Jitka Slezáková, Czech Radio

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 sent shockwaves around the world, galvanizing governments, NGOs and ordinary people into action. Hardest hit by the aggression are Ukrainian communities scattered around the world who watch the devastation of their homeland live on television and social media. One of these small communities is located in the city of Pardubice and its heart is in the Church of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, which serves the Greek Catholic parish and the Ukrainian community in the city. His Ukrainian priest Maryan Kurylo, who has lived in the Czech Republic for 12 years now, says he is overwhelmed by the wave of public solidarity that has followed.

“From day one, dozens of people came to the church to donate and ask how they could help. Initially, I thought we would send out the first shipment in a few days, but when I saw what people had accumulated in a few hours, I had tears in my eyes. There was a truck, two trucks, cargo and more. I am truly grateful and want to thank everyone in the parish and region for how they opened their hearts and helped.

Photo: Šárka Kuchtová, Czech Radio

The Ukrainian priest has now moved from sending material aid to helping Ukrainian refugees who have joined their friends and family in the Pardubice region. Like all Ukrainians abroad, he avidly follows the country’s courageous resistance to the Russian onslaught and does not hide his pride in the way his people have responded to the crisis.

“If you had asked me about Ukrainians a few weeks ago, I would have told you that they are very much like the Czechs – they criticize the government, the president, the high prices in the shops. But now things are different. Today we are united and we fight for Ukraine. We are proud of our president, we do not complain and we are grateful for any help we receive. I think it would be the same for any other nation placed in such circumstances.

The brutal violence unleashed against innocent civilians fuels anger against the aggressors and Priest Kurylo says it has presented him with a new challenge: trying to quell the hatred in his heart for the enemy. Evil breeds more evil, so people shouldn’t allow hatred to grow in their hearts, that’s something I try to tell them every day, he said.

Marian Kurilo |  Photo: Šárka Kuchtová, Czech Radio

He also fears that as the number of refugees increases, people’s solidarity may weaken and his compatriots will be less welcome than during the first phase of the aid effort. In an interview for Czech radio, he asked for patience and understanding.

“Believe me, people fleeing Ukraine don’t want Czech land, Czech property, they don’t want to take what is yours. I know that many of them do not even want to unpack because they hope to return home soon to rebuild their homes and their country. They don’t even like the idea of ​​enrolling their children in school here because they can’t imagine the war going on any longer, that’s their biggest fear.

The Church of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Pardubice |  Photo: Nadkachna, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0

Berta D. Wells