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  • Why Putin fears the Ukrainian Catholic Church
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS Vitaliy Portnikov 2015/06/09

    Vladimir Putin’s assistant Yuri Ushakov said that the situation in Ukraine would be one of the central themes of the meeting on Wednesday, June 10, between Putin and Pope Francis. In itself the statement is not at all surprising. Especially since, in addition to Ukraine, Putin also intends to discuss a number of other issues with the pope, including the situation of Christians in the Middle East — a priority for the Vatican.

    But something else is of interest. Putin is preparing to discuss the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with the pope. Ushakov specifically noted that during the discussions on Ukraine they may mention “aspects of Uniate activity in the country.” And one can assume that the pope will not hear anything positive. Even the phrase used by Ushakov appears to be copied from a Soviet history textbook, where it was explained how the Uniate traitors fought with the Orthodox on Ukrainian and Belorusian lands and promoted the “Western infection.” The expression was strange even then: the Bolsheviks, as is well known, themselves fought brutally with the Orthodox Church and is fact destroyed it. But this definition was taken from imperial history textbooks. Everything was clear there. “Little Russia” and Belarus are all Russian. Orthodoxy is the Russian faith. Uniates are agents of the West. Now everything has fallen into place.

    And, by the way, the destruction of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church after the Second World War was important proof that the Communists were returning to the old imperial doctrine. These were not only repressions against the church. These were primarily repressions against civilization — Ukrainian and European. And when the Ukrainian Catholic Church began its revival during the years of Perestroika, its priests were told they did not belong here. Why didn’t they belong? Because, according to the Russian view, Ukraine is the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is Russian land. And the “Uniates,” associated with the Vatican, would only sow doubts about the correctness of this thesis. And this is why there was nothing wrong in Stalin’s decision to destroy the “foreign church.” Stalin knew what he was doing.

    Vladimir Putin obviously considers himself the heir to Stalin. He even has additional opportunities: the Russian president, for example, can complain about the activity of the “Uniates” to the Pope himself. And the fact that he is the head of a secular state that is supposed to guarantee the equality of religions is of no concern to Putin. Because, despite all the constitutional norms, the government of that state decides by itself exactly which denominations are to be supported and which ones are to be declared “harmful.”

    In Russia itself life is not that simple for the Roman Catholics either, much less for the Greek Catholics. And since in Putin’s mind Ukraine is also Russia, then there can be no room for the “Uniates” in the country coveted by the new emperor. And perhaps it is a good thing that Vladimir Putin will discuss all this with the Pope, so that the latter has, as they say, no more illusions.
    Why Putin fears the Ukrainian Catholic Church -Euromaidan Press |

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    • Two major non-Moscow Ukrainian Orthodox churches move toward unity
      2015/06/10 EUROMAIDAN PRESS

      The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), two of the three largest Orthodox denominations in Ukraine (the other is the UOC subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, ROC-MP), have agreed to hold a meeting later this month to discuss unification.

      That move, agreed upon at a meeting in Kyiv on Monday, puts the two on the road to unification and toward the formation of a single autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine, something that the Moscow Patriarchate will do everything in its power to prevent because the emergence of such a church would cost it most of its bishoprics and parishioners there.

      Such an independent national church, subordinate only to the Universal Patriarchate in Constantinople which sent delegates to the Monday meeting and appears to be actively supporting the Ukrainian move, would not only attract many bishops and the faithful of the ROC-MP but would also boost Ukrainian national identity separate from Russia.

      But in addition, it would have serious consequences in Russia itself: Because more than half of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes are in Ukraine and because many of the newly created bishops there are Moscow Patriarch Kirill’s base, such a move represents a devastating blow to the Moscow church and its leader, reducing the ROC-MP to the third largest Orthodox church in the world and undercutting Kirill’s power and influence.

      Consequently, it is entirely reasonable to assume that Kirill and Moscow will do everything they can to block this development, including the use of FSB-orchestrated provocations, blackmail, bribes, and other forms of official pressure both within Ukraine itself and in the Orthodox world more generally.

      These truly tectonic shifts follow from what may have struck many as a modest announcement by the press service of the Kyiv Patriarchate press service. It reported on the meeting, including attendees from both churches, the Ukrainian church in the US, and the Universal Patriarchate to which the meeting formally expressed its gratitude and asked that it be represented in all unity meetings.

      The press service said the meeting had resolved that the leaderships of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate and the UAOC should by June 1 decide on a date for the convening of a Unity Council “for the final union” of the two churches – this meeting proposed September 14 as an opportune date — and even specified how each church was to be represented at that meeting.

      The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, two of the three largest Orthodox denominations in Ukraine, have agreed to hold a meeting later this month to discuss unification. June 2015 Two major non-Moscow Ukrainian Orthodox churches move toward unity -Euromaidan Press |

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      • Moscow Patriarchate’s loss of Ukrainian churches will render ‘Russian world’ idea a purely militant nationalism, Falikov says 2015/06/25 EUROMAIDAN PRESS

        The Moscow Patriarchate’s looming loss of control over bishoprics and congregations in Ukraine to a new autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church will deprive Vladimir Putin’s “Russian world” idea of any religious content and transform it into little more than an aggressive form of nationalism, according to Boris Falikov.

        In the course of a wide-ranging interview to TV-2 in Tomsk recently, Boris Falikov, a leading specialist on religion at the Russian State Humanities University, says that if as appears likely the Russian Orthodox Church “loses Ukraine and the Ukrainian church, it will cease to be the largest Orthodox church.”

        That will be “a blow” to Patriarch Kirill and his hierarchy, but it will have a broader meaning for Russia as well: “The idea of ‘a Russian world’ has been converted from a theological to an ideological concept already” and is on its way to becoming part of a militant, irredentist ideology.”

        Consequently, any possibility that the Russian Church will be in a position to restrain the Russian state will be lost – up to now, Falikov suggests, the Church has a vital interest in not doing anything that will lead to the loss of its control over bishoprics and parishes abroad – and that will open the door to even greater dangers ahead.

        Falikov’s comments on this outcome come in the course of his discussion of the misuse of the word “secularization” in the Russian context. As he notes, many, including himself, call what is occurring in Russia “the clericalization of society, but this term has been borrowed from the Catholics and requires clarification when applied to Russia.”

        What is happening in Russia now, he argues, is different from and worse than clericalization in the usual sense: it is a combination of the state with the church in ways that “will not lead to anything good either for the state or for the church.” The reason for that is that the third element usually present in other countries – a civil society – is absent in Russia.

        The Soviet state did not create a civil society, Falikov argues. Instead, it stratified all social groups and formed what many from Sergey Bulgakov on have called a pseudo-religion of its own. That harmed both the church and the state, and when that state fell, many hoped for the emergence of a civil society, of which religion could be a part.

        But that process proved stillborn, and now the state is combining with the church in ways that again threaten both, leading the first to take on the millenarian aspects of the latter and leaving the church without the independence that any religious organization needs in order to fulfill its various missions, including speaking truth to power.”

        Falikov’s specific words on this point are critically important. “A secular society did not appear [in Russia], he writes. That is, “there did not appear a normal relationship of citizens to religious processes and as a result a clutch of problems arose. As before there are two protagonists: the church and the state.”

        “But there is no triangle: there is no secular society.” And it is precisely where all three exist as they do in Western countries that “allows for the balancing of these processes.” In Russia, with one of the three lacking, the entire situation is heading into “a dead end,” out of which, Falikov says, he sees no prospects for emerging unscathed.

        According to Falikov, the Moscow Orthodox Church itself is itself not interested in what people now call secularization. “This conditional clericalization is occurring as a result of the efforts of the state, otherwise it would not ever have happened. And the state is using it in its own absolutely pragmatic goals.”

        The current Russian regime needs the power of the church “as one of the sources of its legitimation. That is, it uses the power of the church” in such a way that “the church in this sense is not even an independent player,” something that cannot be lost on as canny a politician as Patriarch Kirill.

        The church hierarch, Falikov says, can certainly see that he and his church are being used as “part of the ideology of the current regime,” an ideology which includes “irredentism” as in Ukraine and thus one which “the church does not particularly need.” Indeed, one that will end by harming the Russian Church.

        In the current Russian government ideology which combines “isolationism and nationalism,” there is room for Orthodoxy to play a certain role, but by itself, it is not needed, and the state takes only what it requires… This is a very curious thing,” and one, Falikov continues, that the current generation of church hierarchs, “don’t know” how to react to.
        Moscow Patriarchate’s loss of Ukrainian churches will render ‘Russian world’ idea a purely militant nationalism, Falikov says -Euromaidan Press |

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        • Saturday, July 04, 2015
          Jews Are Fleeing Russia Because Of Putin

          Just a year ago, Russian journalist Vladimir Yakovlev was one of Moscow's most influential media figures.

          Today, he lives a quiet life in Tel Aviv and has swapped his Russian passport for an Israeli one.

          Yakovlev, the founder of the respected Kommersant publishing house and the Snob magazine, belongs to a new wave of disillusioned Russian Jews deserting their country for the relative stability of Israel.

          "The big problem with Russia, and the main reason why I left, is the fact that our value system was destroyed," he says. "Life in Russia has turned into Russian roulette. Every morning you turn the roulette wheel, you never know what is going to happen to you."

          Spooked by Russia's actions in Ukraine and by the increasingly stringent punishments for anyone deemed critical of the Kremlin, Russians of Jewish descent have been fleeing in droves over the past 18 months.

          Surge From Eastern Europe

          According to Israeli authorities, as many as 4,685 Russian citizens relocated to Israel in 2014 -- more than double than in any of the previous 16 years.

          And the trend seems to be accelerating.

          The nongovernmental Jewish Agency for Israel has released figures showing a 40-percent surge in immigration to the country between January and March of this year, compared to the same period in 2014.

          The study suggests that while the majority of immigrants still come from Western Europe, Russians and Ukrainians are responsible for this increase. The number of Jews migrating from Western Europe has remained largely the same.

          Yakovlev, however, doesn't consider himself a simple immigrant. He is, in his own words, a refugee.

          "People usually emigrate due to domestic circumstances," he says. "People are now leaving because they are scared to stay where they would like to live. They are running from Russia."

          Zeyev Khanin, an official at Israel's Immigrant Absorption Ministry, says the average Russian immigrant has changed dramatically since the last mass exodus of Jews from Russia ebbed in the late 1990s.

          He says newcomers from Russia are significantly younger, more educated, and, as a rule, hail from Moscow or St. Petersburg.

          "The average education level is on the rise and the number of people with degrees in humanities has increased massively," he tells RFE/RL. "Today's repatriates are mostly the creative intelligentsia."

          Mikhail Kaluzhsky was among the 4,685 Russians who moved to Israel last year.

          A journalist and playwright from Moscow, he is typical of the new wave of Russian immigrants described by Khanin.

          Kaluzhsky says his decision to leave Russia is "directly linked to politics."

          In January 2014, he traveled to Ukraine to witness the Maidan pro-democracy protests that toppled Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

          He says the unwavering determination of Maidan protesters left a deep impression on him, together with an uncomfortable realization that Russian antigovernment activists lag far behind their Ukrainian counterparts.

          "I understood that our protests were worthless," he says. "After the Bolotnaya protests [in Moscow in 2012] in our country, demonstrators went to the restaurant. Activists on Maidan did not go anywhere, they stayed until victory."

          Then, Kaluzhsky lost his job with the Sakharov human rights organization as a result of Russia's new "foreign agent" law.

          The controversial law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012, forces NGOs that receive foreign funding and are deemed to carry out political activities to register as "foreign agents."

          "The center's financial situation deteriorated as soon as talk about foreign agents started in Russia," says Kaluzhsky. "Western foundations said they could no longer fund initiatives that may be shut down tomorrow."

          In fall 2014, the Sakharov Center was forced to scrap its theater projects, to which Kaluzhsky had actively contributed.

          Crimea Seizure

          Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine was the last straw.

          "After Crimea, our family decided to distance itself from all of this, most of all from the government," he says.​

          The Kaluzhskys now live in the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Their son attends a local Jewish pre-school and already speaks good Hebrew.

          They have sold all their belonging in Russia and do not plan to return.

          Vladimir Yakovlev, too, sees his future in Israel.

          He and his wife have settled in downtown Tel Aviv, in a bright flat with a balcony full of flowers.

          Most of their friends are other Russian intellectuals, and many of these friendships date back from their life in Moscow.

          Yakovlev says Israel offers the best of both worlds -- a sunny, friendly climate and the same circle of liberal, educated Muscovites that surrounded him in Russia.

          "My group of friends here is almost the same as I had in Moscow," he says. "We live in the same house as friends from Moscow, and I keep meeting people in the streets whom I regularly spent time with in Moscow."

          "No one," he adds, "should be forced to spend their life dealing with this Russian nonsense." Jews Are Fleeing Russia Because Of Putin

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          • Ukraine monuments on mass graves recognize Jews killed in Holocaust
            Michael Scaturro | July 15, 2015 RNS RELIGIOUS NEWS SVCE

            LVIV, Ukraine (RNS) Ludvika Sarah Leah Schein, who survived the Holocaust, hadn’t been to her hometown in 70 years. But she still vividly remembers the day Germans came to Rava-Ruska.

            “We ran immediately into the forest,” Schein said, explaining how she and her two sisters narrowly escaped the Germans before a gentile family took them in. “Bullets were flying at us from all directions. It was a miracle we were not killed.”

            Late last month, Schein, whose parents and brothers were killed by the Nazis and who now lives in San Francisco, attended a ceremony unveiling monuments to murdered Ukrainian Jews and giving family members a place to visit and pay their respects seven decades later.

            The first five monuments were opened in late June in the western part of the country, giving official recognition to mass graves containing the remains of Ukrainian Jews murdered by German troops between 1941 and 1944.

            These also mark the lifting of a Soviet-era taboo about discussing Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the official history, in what is a significant about-face for Ukraine. When it was part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine tended to follow a Soviet-era narrative grouping together all Eastern Europeans killed by the Nazis as “victims of fascism.”

            “It’s a new spirit of confronting the understanding of memory,” said Deidre Berger, head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, which worked with local groups to complete the monuments. “The Soviets suppressed this history, and only in the last 15 years have people been able to talk about it.”

            The monuments erected in Rava-Ruska, Kysylyn, Ostrozhets, Prokhid and Bakhiv — towns where, before the Holocaust, 40 percent to 80 percent of the residents were Jewish — sit atop mass graves containing the remains of 32,000 of the 1 million Ukrainian Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The Nazis also murdered 3 million Ukrainian non-Jews as part of Germany’s Lebensraum plan to eradicate Eastern Europeans and repopulate their lands with Germans.

            The memorial project builds on the landmark work of French Catholic priest and Georgetown University adjunct professor Patrick Desbois, whose organization, Yahad — in Unum (which translates as Together — In One), has found more than 1,600 Jewish mass graves in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Poland, Romania, Moldova and Lithuania, and interviewed over 4,000 witnesses to the Holocaust.

            Twenty-five years ago, Desbois visited Rava-Ruska’s concentration camp to see where his grandfather and other members of the French Resistance were held. He had read that the town also contained a mass grave for 15,000 Jews, but initially no one would take him to the gravesite.

            “I knew from my research that my grandfather was deported to a Jewish village that was totally destroyed,” Desbois said. “I kept returning to Rava-Ruska and asking people to take me to the mass grave of the Jews, but people were reluctant.”

            That reluctance lessened in 2004 when the local government changed and Desbois met Yaroslav Nadyak, then deputy mayor of Rava-Ruska. Nadyak encouraged locals to help Desbois document the town’s Jewish past, thereby setting in motion the decadelong research project culminating in the new monuments.

            “Yaroslav brought me in the forest with 50 farmers, very old people who were present at the killings of the Jews,” Desbois said. “And they described, one by one, what happened.”

            Desbois calls the Germans’ atrocities in Ukraine “a Holocaust of bullets,” since they simply shot Jews and ordered Ukrainian gentile peasants to bury them –- often alive.

            He said ceremonies like the one at the Rava-Ruska camp on June 29 are important for family members of victims, such as Schein, and for locals to keep alive the memory of what happened there.

            “Thirteen German private trucking companies came to work in Rava-Ruska,” Desbois said. “The Nazi killers hired these German companies to move the bodies to mass graves. People must understand, Rava-Ruska was a huge killing center: first for the Jews, then for political prisoners, and then for the local population and the Roma. Each person who was killed here was an individual. We can’t forget this.”

            Anatoly Podolsky, director of the Kiev-based Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies, said he hopes schools will integrate Ukraine’s Jewish history into their curricula.

            “This can become an example for the whole country,” Podolsky said. “The Jews who lived here were not guests. They shaped the history and development of this region for over 400 years.”

            Students in the five towns where the monuments were constructed used grant money to create pamphlets and permanent outdoor displays telling the stories of their towns’ Jewish histories. They, along with their teachers, also gave emotional speeches at the dedication ceremony.

            But this newfound spirit of openness isn’t without its critics.

            Many Ukrainians know that thousands of their countrymen risked their lives to hide Jews from the Germans. But the idea that Ukrainians collaborated with the Germans is still not well-known, nor widely accepted.

            During the dedication for the monument in Bakhiv, for example, a local man in his 50s interrupted the ceremony to voice his displeasure. He took issue with the wording of the text on a bronze memorial plaque stating that Jewish life in the area was eradicated by “German occupiers and their local subordinate authorities.”

            Most of the crowd was silent during his heckling, but then a 78-year-old Jewish woman from the town — herself a Holocaust survivor — emerged from the crowd of about 200 assembled on the hillside monument. She challenged his assertion. The two bickered in Russian until rabbis from the U.S. and Ukraine interceded.

            “It says on the sign that the locals participated with the Nazis — and it’s true,” Svetlana Pineva, the survivor, noted. “My mother and I, as a 3-year-old girl, we were almost killed by both Nazis and by Ukrainians. But it’s also true that my mother and I were saved by a Ukrainian family that hid us until the end of the war.”Berger said she is confident that the generation gap can be closed through educational programs and a second phase of the monuments program, to be rolled out nationally in the coming years.

            “Younger people especially have wanted to talk about this but didn’t have the channels to do so,” Berger said. “One of the unexpected achievements of the memorials is that they’ve helped create a platform for discussing history that didn’t exist before.”

            For survivor Ludvika Sarah Leah Schein, the monuments allowed her to finally pay her respects and attend Kaddish at the mass grave where her parents and two brothers are buried.

            “It has been very emotional for me to come back after blocking it all out for 70 years,” Schein said. “It was very difficult. But I did it.” Ukraine monuments on mass graves recognize Jews killed in Holocaust - Religion News Service

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            • Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy: Pope declares Sheptytsky, Ukrainian Catholic Church leader, 'venerable'
              July 18, 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

              VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis has signed a decree declaring “venerable” Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who led the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the tumultuous period of both World Wars and at the beginning of Soviet occupation.

              The pope July 16 signed the decree recognizing that Metropolitan Sheptytsky heroically lived a life of Christian virtue. The recognition is an initial step in the sainthood process; the Vatican would have to recognize a miracle attributed to his intercession for a beatification ceremony to be scheduled.

              Metropolitan Sheptytsky led the Eastern Catholic Church in Ukraine from 1901 until his death in 1944. During the period of his leadership, Ukraine and its people were ruled by seven different regimes: Austrian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Soviet, Nazi, and finally, the Soviets again.

              Ukrainian Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris told Catholic News Service that while the process for his sainthood opened five decades ago, it was only with the independence of Ukraine 25 years ago that church historians and theologians had access to all his archives. The study required for the sainthood process was not possible while Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.

              “It was a rich file,” Bishop Gudziak said. “Metropolitan Sheptytsky was involved in everything, so it took a long time to go through it all.”

              “Metropolitan Sheptytsky lived in the house of the Lord and it had a high roof, open doors and open windows — he lived outside the box,” the bishop said. “He reached out to the Orthodox when ecumenism was not official church policy; he defended the Jews during the Holocaust; and he was close to artists, poets, intellectuals and writers.”
              “Like Jesus, Metropolitan Sheptytsky had a very clear sense of his identity and his God-given dignity, which allowed him to be non-defensive and non-aggressive with others,” the bishop said.

              Born Roman Aleksander Maria Sheptytsky July 29, 1865, in Prylbychi near Lviv, he took the name Andrey when he entered the Basilian Order.

              Ukrainian Catholics around the world are celebrating the 150th anniversary of his birth, which Bishop Gudziak said, may explain the timing of the decree.

              Elected major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church at the age of 36, he quickly became recognized as a social and cultural leader in a situation of great political uncertainty.

              He died Nov. 1, 1944, just four months after the Soviets took definitive control of Lviv. Bishop Gudziak said, “The Soviets did not liquidate the Greek Catholic Church while he was alive.” The metropolitan’s stature was such that they permitted a public funeral for him, but five months after his death, they arrested all the bishops and moved toward declaring the Eastern Catholic church illegal.

              “His social teaching, his fine, subtle and prophetic voice allowed the church to survive,” the bishop said.

              Father Peter Galadza, acting director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University in Ottawa, also mentioned the metropolitan’s efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust — including by personally sheltering them — and his efforts to promote reconciliation among Ukrainians, Russian and Poles.

              “It is also important to recall Sheptytsky’s commitment to the poor,” he said in a statement. “Born into an aristocratic family, the archbishop used his resources to create a free clinic, provide countless scholarships and help victims of famine, flooding and war. He personally lived a life of poverty.”
              Pope declares Ukrainian church leader 'venerable'

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              • Jewish refugees in Ukraine start building 'shtetl' - Tevye’s modern-day Anatevka
                THE JERUSALEM PRESS Jul 21, 2015

                Just like Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, some contemporary Ukrainian Jews will soon find themselves living in a “shtetl” called Anatevka. Currently being built by Kiev’s Jewish community to house refugees displaced by fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists, the new Jewish refugee community will incorporate a Jewish school, synagogue and almost 80 apartments when it is completed this fall, according to its organizers.

                Thousands of Ukrainian Jews have fled Ukraine’s eastern industrial regions, including more than three-quarters of the more than 10,000 Jews who until recently lived in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk.

                While more than 7,000 have immigrated to Israel since early 2014, many have remained internally displaced within Ukraine.

                The brainchild of Rabbi Moshe Azman, the leader of one of the Ukrainian capital’s two Chabad congregations, the new complex will be located around a half-hour drive from downtown Kiev and is intended to house between 300 and 500 people, said Chaim Klimovitsky, an American volunteering on the project.

                According to Klimovitsky, Azman purchased the land for the new shtetl around two-and-a-half months ago and almost immediately began construction, using Jewish refugees as labor as much as possible.

                Refugees from eastern Ukraine find it hard to obtain housing and employment, with Western resentment against those viewed as holding rebel sympathies adding to the hardships of a stagnant economy and rampant inflation that they are already facing.

                While Azman already runs a refugee camp in Shpola, and with another established by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in Zhitomir, both are converted summer camps and primarily serve as transit centers rather than as permanent homes for the displaced.

                “Everyone thought it would be short term,” but since no resolution to the refugee crisis was at hand, the Jewish community felt that it had to search for a long-term solution, said Klimovitsky.

                The wooden shells of several buildings can already be seen on the Jewish community’s Facebook page and the first of the two-story “townhouses” is expected to be finished by the beginning of September.

                Seventy-six permanent apartments and 20 hotel-style rooms for transients will comprise the complex, Klimovitsky said.

                According to the project’s website, “Located only 30 minutes from the Kiev city center, the community will serve as a basis for refugees to find work, receive medical and psychological rehabilitation and begin new lives. The community is currently under construction and will feature housing in small apartment blocks, a school, an orphanage, an old age home, a synagogue and community center.

                “We also hope to build a small museum of Ukrainian Jewish history that will provide jobs and income for the community. We have made significant progress and the first families will move in in September. Join us in building a future for East Ukrainian Jewish refugees,” it added.

                In May, the Israeli government upped its aid to help resettle Ukrainian Jews displaced by their country’s civil war, adding funds to the more than NIS 2 million it already gave since late 2014.

                In October, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry inked a deal with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to create a common fund, three-quarters of which was endowed by the government, to resettle Jewish internally displaced persons within Ukraine. The money was used to subsidize food and rent costs for a period of two months for those fleeing the war. Jewish refugees in Ukraine start building 'shtetl' - Tevye’s modern-day Anatevka - Diaspora - Jerusalem Post

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                • Single local Orthodox Church to promote unity of country - President

                  KYIV, July 29 /Ukrinform/. President Petro Poroshenko met with representatives of Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who came to Ukraine to participate in the celebration of the Day of Christianization of Kievan Rus' - Ukraine and commemoration of the 1000th anniversary of the repose of Grand Prince of Kyiv Volodymyr the Great.

                  The official website of the Head of State informed this.

                  "The Prayer of Ecumenical Patriarch and his unshakable position in defense of peace and unity of Ukraine helps us heal the wounds caused by Russian aggression and terrorism," Poroshenko said.

                  The Head of State noted that Ukraine is going through difficult and crucial times. Each day is an example of great service to the Motherland by the Ukrainian militaries in Donbas and the entire Ukrainian nation, which is doing everything possible to unite and overcome challenges.

                  "Ukrainian people pray for the unity to be achieved in church life. All Ukrainians strive for the creation of local Ukrainian church. It is a dream that will help Ukraine become united and preserve principles and traditions," the President emphasized.
                  Single local Orthodox Church to promote unity of country - President| Ukrinform

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                  • Kyiv priest Roman Nikolayev (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate), died of gunshot wounds on Wednesday morning at the age of 40.

                    "The venue of the funeral service and the burial place of the newly departed priest Roman Nikolayev will be reported later," the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reported on its website.

                    The priest, who was prior of the Church of Great Martyr Tatiana in Kyiv, was attacked in a residential building on Heroyev Stalinhrada Avenue in Kyiv in the early hours of July 26. The attackers fired two shots to his head.

                    The attackers left after the attack and the priest was found on the staircase by his neighbor, who called the police. The attackers did not rob the priest.

                    Father Roman was in a coma before he died.

                    The investigative branch of the district department has entered the information into the unified register of pretrial investigations based on Part 2 of Article 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (premeditated murder). A pretrial investigation is underway.
                    Priest attacked in Kyiv dies

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                    • hreats, bans and Soviet methods against Crimean Tatar Congress
                      31.07.15 HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE Halya Coynash

                      Three prominent Crimean Tatars have been prevented from leaving Crimea to attend an important Crimean Tatar Congress which is politically embarrassing for Russia. The effective ban comes after weeks of FSB visitations, threats and attempts to use the small number of pro-regime Crimean Tatar organizations to undermine the Congress.

                      Nariman Dzhelyal and Ilmi Umerov from the Mejlis, or Crimean Tatar representative assembly, as well as Zair Smedlyaev, Head of the Central Election Commission of the Qurultay [Crimean Tatar Congress] have made a video address to the Congress after being prevented from leaving. All have received summonses to appear for questioning during the period of the Congress, with the investigators claiming that they have the right “to restrict the mobility of witnesses on particularly important cases”.

                      The ‘particularly important case’ in question is the prosecution and ongoing imprisonment without trial of Akhtem Chiygoz, Deputy Head of the Mejlis and two other Crimean Tatars on charges pertaining to a pre-annexation demonstration on Feb 26, 2014 over which Russia and its occupation regime in Crimea have no jurisdiction.

                      Dzhelyal is now the First Deputy Head of the Mejlis and highest-ranking Mejlis leader since Russia banned Mejlis Head Refat Chubarov and veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev from Crimea and imprisoned Chiygoz.

                      In the address to participants in the Congress, Dzhelyal explained that the policy of intimidation, including by illegal armed paramilitaries, has resulted in them fearing for the safety of their families and loved ones. Umerov points out that the occupation regime is trying to initiate new criminal proceedings, with ‘talks’ being held with people trying to leave for the Congress and obstacles placed in their way.

                      “The Russian authorities are putting pressure on us and we are not being allowed to leave Crimea, but we do not want to remain cut off from the World Congress and have therefore taped this address”, Smedlyaev explained.

                      Some of the address was broadcast on TV ATR, the Crimean Tatar channel which Russia silenced at the end of March and which is now broadcast from mainland Ukraine.

                      In a press release issued on the eve of the Second World Congress, taking place in Ankara, Turkey on Aug 1-2, the organizers state:

                      “Having returned to their homeland after the collapse of the Soviet Union, 350 thousand Crimean Tatars are once again being subjected to totalitarian pressure and are threatened with annihilation. Since the annexation of the peninsula by Russia from Feb 27, 2014 to the present day, 15 thousand Crimean Tatars have been forced to leave Crimea. “

                      The democratically elected leaders of the Crimean Tatar People’s Mejlis and Qurultay have been prevented from carrying out their activities and their assets confiscated.

                      Abductions, arrests and illegal detention continue, Crimean Tatar media have been closed down and Crimean Tatar education is banned, the press release states.

                      Despite repressive measures against rights activists and particularly the current attempts to outlaw the Crimean Human Rights Field Mission, the above-mentioned rights violations are well-documented and have been noted with concern by European and international structures and western countries.

                      Instead of addressing such concerns and putting an end to repressive measures, the occupation regime has stepped up its threats, interrogations and arrests. At the same time it organized a congress of those few Crimean Tatars and their organizations that have been prepared to take a pro-Kremlin line. It was these who were pulled out as trophies to meet the 10 French politicians who chose to breach Ukrainian and international law by visiting Crimea last week and repeating Kremlin propaganda for the Russian media.

                      The Congress, which will be attended by Crimean Tatars from all over the world, will tell a quite different story – one that Russia will not want the world to hear and has tried in vain to stop. Threats, bans and Soviet methods against Crimean Tatar Congress ::

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                      • Etta Gross Zimmerman: Hope, lost and found, for Ukraine’s Jews
                        Aug. 2, 2015, Etta Gross Zimmerman/ posted Jul 31, 2015

                        “Start worrying. Details to follow.”

                        It’s not just the irreverent punch line of a joke about the content of a Jewish telegram. It is also the only way I can describe the situation in Ukraine, a country suffering from violent conflict, wide-ranging economic collapse, and a humanitarian crisis of untold proportions.

                        I experienced a taste of this crisis during my most recent trip to the beleaguered Eastern European nation together with a group of passionate Jewish leaders on behalf of the Jewish Federations of North America.

                        Like the others on the trip, I was transported thousands of miles from my safe life in the U.S. to Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, located 100 miles west of the separatist-controlled regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

                        It was there that we got to understand better the realities that have beset Ukraine over the last year and a half. We saw firsthand how the Euromaidan clashes, Crimean annexation, financial chaos, and protracted violence in eastern Ukraine has impacted a population of people who had faced major socio-economic challenges even before this crisis began.

                        What was most striking was the presence of many of the 1.3 million Ukrainians who have become displaced within the country’s borders. Commonly referred to as Internally Displaced People or IDPs, they are attempting desperately to forge new lives is strange cities far from their former lives. There has been scant news on their specific suffering, especially with a world refugee crisis reaching an unprecedented 60 million people this year. But their desperate need for housing, medical care, food, and community connections is acute.

                        When I traveled last summer with a small group of American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) board members to the region, we hoped that the IDPs we met would be able to resettle and find a more secure life, perhaps even in Israel. At the time, we could not imagine their displaced status would continue, or that fighting and insecurity would escalate. And we did not think for a moment that when we returned this year, we would find even more displaced people.

                        But as we visited the displaced at Dnepropetrovsk’s Beit Baruch senior center and in temporary housing facilities in the city, we found pervasive sadness, vacant stares, and doubts for the future. Hearing about the journey made by an educated young couple who fled Lugansk last August with their two little boys was surreal. To ensure their children’s safe passage amid the chaos, they had to forgo additional luggage so that each parent could hold onto one of their son’s hands along the way. They currently reside in small, but meticulously kept apartment and survive on meager salaries from unreliable jobs.

                        To say they are in the middle of a perfect humanitarian storm would be an understatement. Rampant inflation, devalued currency, and an inadequate or nonexistent social safety net have wreaked havoc on both those who fled the separatist-controlled regions and those who remain throughout Ukraine.

                        In light of these circumstances, many Jews are making use of the critically important aliyah services provided by the Jewish Agency’s Mayak Center. But for the vast majority, leaving is not an option. And the reasons are many: from not wanting to leave their lives and families behind, to protecting property, to the debilitation brought on by the sheer trauma and disbelief of the circumstances.

                        Thankfully for those in Dnepropetrovsk, Chabad’s Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, the local chief rabbi, has set the tone for community cooperation at this challenging time and works closely with all the major Jewish groups engaged in efforts to help the Jews of his city and throughout Ukraine. The air of positivity he has fostered has elevated not just Jews in need, but also the local professionals providing services to the needy and visitors, like us, demonstrating solidarity with those Jews impacted by the humanitarian crisis.

                        When the Soviet Union fell more than 20 years ago, a vast system of JDC Hesed social welfare centers and Jewish Community Centers were established. These great institutions worked hard to infuse a sense of communal independence, philanthropic spirit, and local Jewish creativity. Today, that struggle has paid off: Hesed and JCC professionals and the volunteers are demonstrating bravery, dedication, and contribute positively to their respective communities.

                        Jewish professionals, also suffering amid the continued crisis, work ceaselessly around the clock to ensure that each and every Jew, be they displaced or remaining in the conflict zone, are cared for. They treat every person with compassion and dignity, even when they themselves are stretched, weary, and worried for their own family members and friends.

                        And then there are those volunteers resoundingly active inside and out of the separatist-controlled zones. Often, they are risking their own safety to help the helpless. Consider Victor from Slavyansk, who delivered food packages on his bike to the elderly who could not leave home. In his late 70s, and not Jewish, he did what he could in the most trying circumstances.

                        Victor is not alone in his awe-inspiring dedication. In fact, volunteerism that has become a mainstay of Jewish communities throughout Ukraine, the silver lining to this dire situation, and evidence of a home-grown sense of “arevut”—mutual responsibility among Jews.

                        That development can be found in the JDC’s Metsudah Leadership Program, which builds cohorts of volunteer Jewish leaders addressing social challenges. Metsudah’s more than 250 alumni, deployed throughout Ukraine, are setting a tone of dedication that uplifts their downtrodden communities.

                        Another bright spot is the welcoming environment provided by the Jews of Zaporozhe, who have been instrumental in caring for displaced Jews and ensuring that they have a Jewish community to turn to at their time of need. During a visit to this southeastern Ukrainian city, I met a severely ill child who was living with her grandmother and mother. This tiny, beleaguered family of women are lacking a permanent home, miss their lives back in the east, and now rely on support from strangers. But they have nowhere to turn.

                        We—the Jewish community—are their only source of support. In fact, since the crisis began, the response to the humanitarian plight has coalesced around a stalwart group of aid groups, concerned Jews advocates and activists, and local Ukrainian Jewish organizations. The Jewish Federations, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the Conference on Jewish Materials Claims Against Germany, World Jewish Relief, Chabad, Jewish foundations, and individual supporters have been at the forefront of these efforts.

                        It is indeed difficult to find hope amid these scenes of terrible struggle, and one fears that brighter tomorrows are ever more allusive. But sometimes fate takes a hand and reminds you of the indomitable nature of the Jewish spirit in the face of adversity.

                        Those who have traveled with me know that a tired piano and a Yiddish melody can set me off singing and dancing with unbridled enthusiasm. During our visit to Ukraine, I was treated to such a song by eight retired female engineers who gather together weekly to socialize with other Jewish seniors at a program made possible by Jewish philanthropists from North America. The song—written for me and those I was traveling with—ended by noting that their opportunity to socialize together was “medicine for their souls.”

                        In that poignant moment, despite my worries for the future of Ukraine’s Jews, I was reminded that we can accomplish anything if we put our minds to it.

                        And for Ukraine’s Jews today, a little bit of chutzpah in the face of the odds, a warm hug, and a place to call home can go a long way. Those who have traveled with me know that a tired piano and a Yiddish melody can set me off singing and dancing with unbridled enthusiasm. During our visit to Ukraine, I was treated to such a song by eight retired female engineers who gather together weekly to socialize with other Jewish seniors at a program made possible by Jewish philanthropists from North America. The song—written for me and those I was traveling with—ended by noting that their opportunity to socialize together was “medicine for their souls.”

                        In that poignant moment, despite my worries for the future of Ukraine’s Jews, I was reminded that we can accomplish anything if we put our minds to it.
                        Hope, lost and found, for Ukraine’s Jews —

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                        • Religion in Russia - Russians feel less positive towards religion now than they did in 1990
                          Jul 31, 2015 Erasmus THE ECONOMIST

                          OVER the quarter-century since the collapse of the Soviet system, Russian feelings about religion have changed a lot, as one might imagine. In Soviet times, the state expected and encouraged citizens to be atheists. Now a loose affiliation to a religious faith has become the national default mode; a plurality of Russians tell pollsters they are Russian Orthodox, while significant minorities identify with Islam, Buddhism or Judaism.

                          But a survey published a few days ago (link in Russian) by one of Russia's best-known pollsters, VTSIOM, showed something unexpected in its comparison of present-day attitudes in Russia with those of 1990. Although there is a jump (from 23% to 55%) in the share of people who say they are sometimes "helped" by religion in their own lives, the general effect of religion on human welfare is viewed in much bleaker terms than before. The proportion of people who think religion does more good than harm to society has slumped from 61% to 36% while the share detecting more harm than good has risen from 5% to 23%.

                          One can guess at least part of what is going on here. In 1990, many Russians saw religion in the same rosy glow in which they saw everything non-Soviet, from rock music to fast food to monarchism. If the Soviet Union had been against it, they were for it—or thought it at least worth a try. Religion seemed daring, different and exotic. The Soviet system did tolerate religious structures, including the Russian Orthodox hierarchy, as long as they were loyal to the state, but they were pretty weak. Since then the visible strength and privilege of officially-blessed faiths (mainly but not only Orthodox Christianity) has grown enormously. Religion is viewed as a partner in power, and not in any sense counter-cultural.

                          In presenting the figures, the pollster observed that around 1990, religion had for a time become a "widespread social fashion" after the limits on its practice were lifted. Since then, people have learned to distinguish faith as such, which many still find personally meaningful, from religion as an institution, which many view critically. The fact that radical Islamist movements, barely on Russians' radar in 1990, have since become a major security threat may also play a role.

                          In certain ways, though, official religious life in today's Russia is not really all that different from Soviet times, apart from being vastly more prominent. Established religious leaders are still expected to put their prestige at the service of the state, and to get along with one another in ways that preserve social peace and burnish the country's image abroad. While repressing certain forms of Islam, as well as Western-connected religious minorities such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, the state encourages set-piece religious diplomacy involving officially favoured leaders.

                          In June, for example, prominent Russian Orthodox clerics and Muslim religious leaders from as far afield as Syria and Indonesia attended a grand meeting in Moscow on Russia's "strategic partnership" with the Islamic world. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov delivered a message of encouragement from President Vladimir Putin. The meeting was chaired by the acting leader of Tatarstan, a historically Muslim territory in central Russia whose skyline (pictured) is dotted with minarets as well as church domes. It was reported Friday that prominent Muslims from around the world, as well as Orthodox Christians, Jews and Buddhists, would be invited to the opening of a large new mosque in Moscow in September.

                          None of this careful choreography convinces religious-liberty campaigners in the West that Russia has fully accepted freedom of conscience. In an op-ed published this week, two leaders of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom urged Russia to "embrace religious diversity". They also asked the country to reconsider an "extremism" law which, as amended in 2007, is so broadly worded that just about any faith could be charged with "inciting religious discord" merely for asserting the truth of its own beliefs. The European Court of Human Rights is currently considering an appeal against the law lodged by Jehovah's Witnesses.

                          In Russia's current mood, Western appeals for a change in the official treatment of religion, or of anything else, are likely to receive a grumpy response. But the new opinion polls suggest that the Russian public may be less enamoured with their country's religious leaders than with their secular ones. Or that the state's effort to tame and co-opt the power of religion has not been entirely beneficial—to the state, or to religion.
                          Religion in Russia: Russians feel less positive towards religion now than they did in 1990 | The Economist

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                          • August 4, 2015 Halya Coynash THe ATLANTIC COUNCIL
                            Debunking Russia’s Narrative of Rampant Anti-Semitism in Ukraine Again

                            The Congress of National Communities of Ukraine's latest reports on xenophobia in Ukraine have struck another blow to Moscow's persistent attempts to present the country as a hotbed of anti-Semitism. The reports make no mention of the "pogroms" alleged by the Russian Foreign Ministry, nor do they back Russian President Vladimir Putin's assertion of a "rampage of reactionary, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces."

                            They do identify some problems, but the reports also portray disturbing attempts to exaggerate, invent, or orchestrate others. The most acute problem so far this year, however, remains "the position of Crimean Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea"—while the reports point to "a high level of anti-Semitism in public discourse" not in Kyiv, but from the Kremlin-backed militants of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.

                            The Congress's Monitoring Group on the Rights of National Minorities is headed by Viacheslav Likhachev, the main researcher monitoring anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine for the past ten years. In his 2014 report released in April, and a provisional report up to June 2015 released last week, Likhachev shows that the statistics do not support any suggestion of "mounting anti-Semitism" in Ukraine. In addition, the figures for 2014-15 show fewer incidents than the worst years of 2007-08. So far this year, seven racially motivated attacks occurred in areas under Ukrainian government control. There were twenty-four in 2014 and twenty-six in 2013, down from eighty-eight in 2007. Although none led to fatalities, some recent street attacks are alarming, as is the ongoing police reluctance to acknowledge racial motives.

                            Last year saw an increase in racially motivated vandalism (thirty-three cases, twenty-three of them anti-Semitic). So far this year, Ukraine has experienced eleven such cases, seven of them anti-Semitic; in 2013, there were twenty cases of racially motivated vandalism, nine of them anti-Semitic. Likhachev says recent developments in Ukraine could account for the 2014 jump, but the reason given contrasts starkly with Moscow's narrative. He points out that since the Euromaidan, Jews have become strongly associated with the pro-Ukraine movement. Anti-Semites especially directed their hate speech against Ihor Kolomoyskyi, the oligarch who took a pronounced pro-Ukrainian, anti-separatist position as governor of Dnipropetrovsk.

                            Not all statistics can be taken at face value. The authors suspect that agents working for the Kremlin not only exaggerate Ukraine's problems or report fictitious incidents, but actually stage them for propaganda purposes. They have grounds for believing that at least two anti-Semitic attacks in Kyiv and the desecration of a synagogue the day after Russian forces seized control in Simferopol were orchestrated. Such stunts also support efforts by what the authors call "pseudo-rights organizations" that Moscow uses to produce material claiming rights abuses and "rampant neo-Nazism."

                            For example, Ukrainian journalists who were fully aware of the participants' venal motives nevertheless reported on an "anti-Semitic picket" in Lviv. Video footage would inconveniently show those reporters asking the young kids and inebriated down-and-outs how much they'd been paid to show up—but photos can and surely will be pulled out as "proof" of Ukraine's anti-Semitism.

                            Prominent Jewish figures regularly reject such claims. In November 2014, several Jewish organizations passed a resolution in which they "call on the international community to be extremely careful in any evaluation of the situation regarding anti-Semitism in Ukraine coming from outside our country."

                            Caution is certainly needed. In October 2014, the Odesa Jewish community was forced to issue a formal statement denying lurid, frightening and entirely untrue Russian media claims that Ukraine's extreme Right Sector party had "declared war on Jews in Odesa." After a few months of silence, reports alleging anti-Semitism in Ukraine again made headlines—all based on a fake letter from Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, to Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.

                            Moscow's own proxies in the Donbas refute the Kremlin's anti-Jewish narrative. Earlier this year the leaders of the so-called "republics"—in an extraordinary show of anti-Semitism broadcast on Russian TV—condemned the "pathetic Jews" governing Ukraine. Such disturbing evidence of xenophobia and anti-Semitism has been around ever since the militants seized control, though lately it has become part of their vicious power struggle.

                            Ukraine's leaders have laid themselves open to criticism over the role of the Azov volunteer battalion, with its neo-Nazi leaders and probably members, as well as the more extreme elements in Right Sector and VO Svoboda. A few individuals such as Andriy Biletsky and Ihor Mosiychuk have won seats in Parliament, while others have received questionable appointments on the basis of their bravery in defending Ukraine. There are legitimate concerns about their role beyond the battlefield, as well as doubts about their motives as the recent conflict in Mukacheve has demonstrated.

                            All this is a gift for Kremlin propaganda, but it still does not justify broad claims about Ukrainian society. Ukraine's two far-right parties did very badly in last year's presidential and parliamentary elections, and no evidence exists that voters support anti-Semitic or xenophobic views. Now in Parliament, Biletsky reportedly claims that stories about his neo-Nazi and white supremacist views is all Russian slander. The denial is unconvincing, but it is telling that he sees the need to make it.

                            Few expect Moscow to abandon its propaganda arsenal, but the facts presented in the monitoring group's reports may serve as a warning to others to watch out for fakes, manipulation, and total fabrication.Debunking Russia’s Narrative of Rampant Anti-Semitism in Ukraine Again

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                            • Bishop Borys Gudziak: Our chaplains make our Church proud
                              2015/08/19 EUROMAIDAN PRESS

                              I am impressed by the courage of our soldiers and volunteers who leave their families to serve on the frontlines at such a young age. I am moved to tears by the testimony of many soldiers and chaplains. They say that the Ukrainian army is better equipped and combat readiness is growing. I would like to point out that it is extremely important to have our chaplains in the field, a fact that was corroborated by the commanders.

                              Here are some thoughts shared by Borys Gudziak, Eparch of the Diocese of St. Volodymyr the Great in France, Benelux and Switzerland, President of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.

                              Bishop Borys underlines that a priest’s presence in the war zone is more important than words or acts: “They become more inspired as priests orient their views, opinions and the soul towards the sacred.”

                              According to him, every priest who spends even a few days at the front shares God’s grace with others and travels a deeply spiritual path. “The presence of a pastor is essential in a war as it enriches him and everyone who sees the fine line between good and evil.”

                              Bishop Borys is convinced that war reminds us of the priorities in life and puts everyday things in their rightful place: “I honour the priests who have spent time there with the soldiers. I’m impressed by many, such as Father Bohdan Vykhor who left his parish, his wife and five children to be at the forefront, or Father Taras Kotsiuba who’s serving his fourth rotation as chaplain. They are an example to us all. There are about a hundred chaplains in the war zone, but the UGCC has more than three thousand priests! The Lord clearly calls us to serve our soldiers and enrich our own spiritual world!” The bishop believes that Ukraine has become the epicenter of a global geopolitical issue and the war in the East is its nucleus.

                              “The work carried out by our chaplains makes our Church proud. We must understand that they cannot act in our stead. Therefore, it is worth considering how pastors can participate and be useful in such special missions.” he said.

                              The bishop added that Ukrainian soldiers asked him to tell their country and the world that they are grateful for the moral and financial assistance provided by parishes, pastors, monks and the faithful who generously donate to support the fight of truth against lies.

                              “They assured me that they would stand to the end. They asked people not to lose faith and to stop complaining. They said that they would not give up a shred of Ukrainian land. They sacrifice and risk everything they have. But what are we willing to sacrifice?” concluded Bishop Borys.

                              Father Liubomyr Yaworsky, who accompanied Bishop Boris to the ATO zone, specified that they visited five chaplains. There are 17 Ukrainian Greek Catholic chaplains currently on rotation.
                              Bishop Borys Gudziak: Our chaplains make our Church proud -Euromaidan Press |

                              Translated by: Christine Chraibi
                              Source: UGCC Information Resource

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                              • Lviv revives Jewish past as Ukraine bids to link with Israel
                                The conflict-hit country is keen to disprove Russian claims of rampant anti-Semitism
                                Aug 28, 2015 THE IRISH TIMES Daniel McLaughlin in Lviv

                                The glory days of Lviv’s Golden Rose synagogue, like those of the Jewish community in this beautiful Ukrainian city, lie far in the past.

                                Jews settled in Lviv soon after it was founded in the 13th century, and by the late 1500s two synagogues formed the heart of their quarter in the city centre.

                                The Golden Rose, designed by an Italian architect in the renaissance style, was considered one of Europe’s most beautiful synagogues, and over the centuries it traded places with the neighbouring Great City synagogue as the main Jewish place of worship in Lviv.

                                The fortunes of Lviv’s Jews fluctuated with its rulers – Polish kings from the 14th century until 1772, then Austria’s Habsburgs, until Poland retook the city after the first World War – and as anti-Semitism waxed and waned.

                                Before the second World War, about one-third of Lviv’s 320,000 people were Jewish, and that community doubled in size as Jews fled here from the Nazi occupation of western Poland.

                                The Nazis captured Lviv and the surrounding Galicia region from Soviet forces in 1941, and forced Jews into a ghetto before sending them to labour and extermination camps. When the Red Army re-took Lviv in 1944, only a few hundred Jews remained in the city and their greatest buildings lay in ruins.

                                Remaining wall
                                Now, where the Great City synagogue stood, tourists sip coffee on a café terrace, facing a makeshift corrugated fence that hides the sole remaining wall of the Golden Rose synagogue.

                                This square on Staroyevreiska (“Old Jewish”) Street will soon look very different, however, as a bright thread of Lviv history is finally brought back to light.

                                The area will be repaved with stone of different textures to evoke the layout of the Great City synagogue, and grass and trees will be planted where a Jewish study house stood, beside the soon-to-be-restored surviving wall of the Golden Rose.

                                An installation will present quotes in several languages about Jewish life in Lviv.

                                German architects will transform Synagogue Square, and Israeli and US designers will create memorial parks at the former sites of a Jewish cemetery and a Nazi concentration camp.

                                The projects chime with Ukraine’s determination to improve ties with Israel and the global Jewish community, as Russia foments unrest in the country and accuses its pro-western leaders of pandering to fascist elements.

                                “Currently in Ukraine, and especially in Lviv, there is a great interest concerning the history of Jews,” said Israel’s honorary consul to Lviv, Oleg Vishnyakov.

                                “More and more people who forgot about their origins during Soviet times are coming back to their roots,” said Vishnyakov, whose consulate opened in May, just as Ukraine’s national airline launched flights between Lviv and Tel-Aviv.

                                “Many descendants of Galician Jews are now coming to Lviv to find more information about their family history . . . and some of them are staying in Lviv and running their business here.”

                                Israeli specialists are caring for Ukrainian soldiers wounded in fighting with Russian-backed separatists, and are advising Ukrainian colleagues on how to treat post-traumatic stress problems.

                                Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, and Israeli premier Binyamin Netanyahu are expected to visit each other soon, with Kiev keen to buy weapons and Israel perhaps more inclined to agree given its anger over Russia’s planned sale of advanced S-300 missile systems to Iran.

                                The symbolic value of Israel’s friendship is also crucial for Ukraine, given Russia’s allegations of rampant anti-Semitism; the fact that some Ukrainian militia did collaborate with the Nazis; the small but prominent presence of ultra-nationalists among Kiev’s current forces; and a lingering lack of sensitivity towards minorities.

                                Alongside the Golden Rose, for example, a Jewish “theme” restaurant’s use of crude stereotypes extends to customers being asked to haggle over the price of their meal.

                                A recent rally in Lviv, at which a few dozen people briefly brandished anti-Semitic placards, also stirred anxiety.

                                It was quickly filmed by Russian media before dispersing, and Lviv officials dismissed it as a stunt by pro-Moscow groups to discredit Ukraine.

                                Sofia Dyak, director of Lviv’s Centre for Urban History of East Central Europe, said she hoped Ukraine’s conflict would not feed aggressive nationalism, but foster broader and more inclusive views of the country’s diverse history.

                                “Maybe war and crisis can create an opportunity to treat Ukraine as an open concept that we can fill like a patchwork,” she said.

                                “Lviv is such an important place for Poles and Jews. We can be generous in the way we view its history, and make much better sense of where we all come from.”
                                Lviv revives Jewish past as Ukraine bids to link with Israel

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