The war-torn Vorzel seminary opens up to young people. Principal: “Despite everything, we believe in life”

A summer vocation camp for children ages 16 and up will be held at Vorzel Seminary from August 15th to 21st. The building was destroyed and looted in April during heavy fighting on the outskirts of Kiev. A few kilometers from here there are the martyr towns of Bucha, Irpin, Borodjanka. “We don’t know how many will come”, confides the rector of the seminary, Father Ruslan Mykhalkiv: “It is not important. It is important to change the atmosphere, take time, listen to the Lord”

(Photo: RKC)

It was at the beginning of April when the Vorzel Higher Seminary was fired. It is located on the outskirts of Kiev, a few kilometers from the martyr towns of Bucha, Irpin, Borodjanka. During the days of intense fighting in the area, some entered the seminary, broke through the entrance gate and took everything away. The images of the statue of the Madonna destroyed on the ground, of the broken windows and of the mortar rounds on the walls went around the world. They were a sign that war respects nothing, not even places of prayer and spirituality. Five months after that event, the seminary has not only reopened, also thanks to the contributions of many, but from August 15 to 21 it will host a vocational summer camp for children 16 and older. “We don’t know how many will come”, confides the rector of the seminary, father Ruslan Mykhalkiv. “It’s not important. It’s important to change the atmosphere, take time, listen to the Lord “. On the invitation, the children are asked to bring “The Holy Scripture, a notebook with a pen, a change of clothes and

(Photo of the Diocese of Kiev)

good mood”. The program includes moments of spirituality and moments of play and recreation. We will also go to Bucha, Irpin, Borodjanka to show the wounds of war. Because “spirituality” – says the principal – is not a place to escape, but a place “where you can find answers to the children’s questions and to all the evil they have experienced”. There is a key word that priests have chosen this year for this initiative, and it is: “in spite of”: “in spite of everything , what is happening, despite the war that has deeply complicated and reduced our lives. Despite – Father Ruslan explains – it means that we want to remain true to life, guard our future, look forward. It means that despite the situation and the weight of the war, we remain normal’.

How are the youth in Ukraine?

Despite the madness of this situation and the injustice that cries out to heaven, we witness dynamics that are deeply Christian and human. I refer, for example, to the readiness we see in helping others, in meeting people who are forced to leave their homes, especially from the eastern part of the country. There are not only guns and battles, but also communities that have opened their doors to welcome. The war made us rediscover the importance of others and the generosity of a people. Young people? They must have examples to look up to. And there are so many of them today in Ukraine. I think of the army, volunteers, doctors, even priests. There are drivers who drive trains, minibuses and buses to help people evacuate and move from one city to another. There are people distributing bread and humanitarian aid in the centers. There is always someone working behind it.

Will schools resume in September?

This is a very sensitive subject. Because the missiles don’t stop being fired at us. And the schools are not sufficient to guarantee the safety of the students. They are not places where young people and children can seek refuge in the event of an alarm. But it also hurts to stay at home. We have seen that in the two-year lockdown. Distance learning takes away the contact that children need so much. But the resumption of courses is too risky now. Our enemy behaves like a terrorist society. It doesn’t even stop in front of the schools.

Have many young people left the country or have they stayed?

Many stayed behind. And many who had left have returned. It depends on the area they fled from. It is also said that between October and November there may be a new wave of fleeing people who will flee from the eastern parts of the country where there is war. Until now they have moved on in the hope of resisting, but the winters here are very harsh and people will be forced to leave their homes.

Doesn’t it seem to you that the war, in addition to destroying the houses, also steals the children’s future?

Yes, also because they have destroyed many universities, schools, kindergartens. Many children have their parents in the army and many of them have never returned. They disappeared. Forced relocation to Russia or Belarus. This situation does not affect everyone, but many people are hurt by this reality. And then the sirens: their sound is now the background of our lives. It is true that we are used to it, but then there are reports of missiles being fired at the houses, then you understand that it is all true, that we are at war, that you can never feel safe.

When the Vorzel seminary was hit, the bishop of Kiev, Msgr. Vitalii Kryvytsky said that it was important to reopen it for the benefit of the church and the country, because Ukraine, which will be rebuilt after the war, will also need spiritual guides – priests. What should the “reconstruction” pastors be like?

I think it would have to be someone who knows what love means and what suffering means, who has experienced both situations and therefore believes that love is stronger than death itself. He will also have to be a person who knows how to distance himself from the evil created by the war because it is an evil that consumes you inside, it penetrates you by triggering strong emotions, emotions of hatred of an injustice that suffers for no reason. He must therefore be a person who is always able to always remain in hope, to keep the heart in forgiveness, to not allow the poison of death to enter. War is a difficult condition, but it has confronted us with what it is really worth. The priest must be someone who is able to accompany people on this path. I know at least three mothers who do not know where their children are in the Ukrainian army. They took them to Russia, but they don’t know where. How can they forgive? Maybe there are no answers, but there is a way to walk together.

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