Father Yaroslav Nalysnyk said the invasion of Ukraine is almost surreal, and that it's hard to believe such horrific barbarism is occurring in his native country.
Nalysnyk has been the pastor at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church on Forest Hills Street in Jamaica Plain since 1994.
He last visited Ukraine two years ago, and his two sisters and 90 year old mother, who survived World War II, are in western Ukraine. He has been in touch with them everyday through Facebook messenger. They are in a small town and have had to take cover in a bomb shelter in a nearby school. But his elderly mother has been unable to do so because of her frailty.
When asked how someone can help, Nalysnyk said there are three main ways that people can help Ukraine and the Ukrainian people: Pray, truth, and action.
"We have to continue to pray as people of god for god's help and protection. We have to share truth about Ukraine and what is happening just to eliminate any Russian propaganda," said Nalysnyk to Jamaica Plain News. "And action -- we have to offer what we can -- money and support, and humanitarian support."
Nalysnyk spoke about the incredible outpouring of support the Boston area community has provided to the church.
"We are so touched by people’s solidarity and support, people attending prayer services, sending monetary support, and also humanitarian aid," said Nalysnyk. "I am so grateful for the entire Boston community. I spoke with [Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley], and he offered his prayerful support and he appealed to the entire Archdiocese of Boston to offer support to Ukraine via different means and channels."
O'Malley had just spoken with the Pope in the Vatican, and the Pope had gone to the Russian embassy in the Vatican to ask for the war to stop.
Mayor Michelle Wu attended a recent prayer service, and she has led the city's efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and said Boston will be ready when refugees come to Boston.
Nalysnyk said checks can be made out to the church, and humanitarian aid can be sent to the parish, including medical supplies, First Aid supplies. Walkie-talkies are also welcome so soldiers can communicate with each other. He said the church is packing boxes and sending the items to Poland, which will then be sent to Ukraine to support wounded soldiers, and will also help refugees.
When he visited Ukraine two years ago it was relatively peaceful, but there had recently been conflict due to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.
"This invasion is just a continuation of Russian aggression, and this is an unprovoked full-scale war. It's horrible," said Nalysnyk.
As war rages in Ukraine, Nalysnyk said he would like Americans to contact their local politicians, and their Congressional representatives to press President Joe Biden's administration to really engage and establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
"People are bombing our cities," said Nalysnyk. "We have to engage. If you would walk on the street and saw some bully attacking a child, a bigger person would immediately help that child, and wouldn't ask if you belong to a particular group. I have a golden retriever and if someone attacks her, even if it's wolves or tigers, I would protect that dog with my life. We're talking about human beings in a peace loving nation who don't attack anyone. We are a peaceful nation."
Nalysnyk said Moscow's attitude is that they want to occupy and suppress Ukraine, but that Ukraine wants to be an independent and sovereign nation and be masters of their own land. They don't want to be part of Russia or any Soviet union.
"People in Boston have to press our politicians to ask the Biden administration to put an embargo on receiving oil and gas from Russia. This country is sending [millions of dollars] per day back to Russia, and they’re supporting Putin that way and his aggression. America is not completely aware of that," said Nalysnyk. "Also special forces has to take care of Putin and bring them to the Hague Tribunal and try him as a war criminal. Justice has to be served and the the people of Russia can have free elections and an elected leader and not this horrible maniac."