Ukrainian chaplain: ‘Every Sunday I hear of war deaths’

Ukrainian chaplain: ‘Every Sunday I hear of war deaths’ A bird sits on a cross amid newly made graves at a cemetery near Mariupol, Ukraine. Photo: CNS

Chaplain to the Ukrainian community in Ireland Fr Vasyl Kornitsky has said that “every single Sunday” he hears from members of his congregation about family members who’ve died in Ukraine, and that the ongoing war is “affecting everyone”.

This comes following the news that the community of Carrick-on-Shannon in Co. Leitrim are rallying around 18-year old Ukrainian Kateryna whose family were killed by Russian shelling over the weekend.

The bombs killed her mother Olesya, 39, her stepfather Dmitro, her 11-year-old brother Artem, and her newborn sister Sophia who was just 23 days old. Only her 16-year-old sister escaped as she was at their grandmother’s house at the time.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic newspaper, Fr Kornitsky said that “it doesn’t matter whether you live in Ukraine or outside of Ukraine because in one way or another we all have family members back home,” and so everyone in the Ukrainian community in Ireland continues to be affected.

“Some family members are fighting at the moment, we have people who get killed. We have people who lose someone in Ukraine. We have people who can’t leave the country because they’re living in occupied territory,” he said.

“Every single Sunday after Mass I have people come up to me after Mass to tell me, ‘This person has died,’ ‘This person was killed but there is no one to bury the body in Ukraine’.

“That has such a huge effect on the people here, who can’t go back home, and there is no one to bury the body. Every single Sunday we have people, soldiers who are killed and their mum is here. The war in Ukraine effects everyone in different ways,” Fr Kornitsky said.

The importance of the Catholic community has become clear to the Ukrainians of Ireland, Fr Kornitsky said, because “if you’re in pain or traumatised by the war, you need a community”.

“That’s why after each Sunday Mass we organise coffee and tea. That social aspect is very important, for people to get together and talk and share. It’s so important, especially in these times, for us to stick together, to be together, to pray together.”