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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Volodymyr Pedko

    On the lookout for mental peace: how a brigade chaplain from Cherkasy helps to heal servicemen and their families


    АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Diana Bevtsyk

    14 July 2022

    Having peace of mind and poise in warfare is no less important than mastering military tactics and weapons. Military priest Volodymyr Pedko is convinced of this. That is why he accompanies the soldiers to the front and takes care of their moral state. What problems defenders and their families often face and how a chaplain helps to solve them, read in “War Monologues”.    

    I am an ordinary priest, I serve in the St. Anatoly Church, which is located near the Cherkasy Regional Hospital. My activity as a chaplain began back in 2014, when I went to Volnovakha for the first time together with the Cherkasy battalion, because the territorial defense forces did not exist then. I actively went to the east of Ukraine for two or three years. When the Cherkasy Territorial Defense was founded, I began to provide spiritual care to servicemen on a voluntary basis. At that time, our territorial defense was not as developed as it is now. In fact, there were staff officers and a small number of territorial defense personnel in the region who signed the contract. A little over a month ago, I made the decision to take the oath and fully join the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Currently, I am a brigade chaplain of the Cherkasy Territorial Defense, a military priest.

    About training defenders and their families

    My main goal is to be close to defenders, to provide spiritual support: someone needs to confess, receive communion or even perform the rite of baptism. It happens that someone was not baptized, and then he or she just became sighted and wanted to become a Christian. If there is time, we prepare the fighter for baptism for a while, talk about Christianity. The chaplain also provides moral support – the so-called moral and psychological support. This is the task of a separate service in the army, but we also join this work. 

    Courses for chaplains

    A psychologist conducted courses for chaplains on the ability to communicate with soldiers in war

    It is important that we have two chaplains in the brigade, one of whom is constantly working in Cherkasy. This is Igor Shemyakov. While I go to the front, he stays to meet the wounded, those who return, and also he works with relatives. That is, work is being done with the soldiers all the time – here and there.

    When I am on the outskirts, I provide assistance to defenders in crisis situations , or for others , who need a solution: some are fighting, others have remained in the unit and cannot find a place for themselves, they are worried because they want to fight, and the wounded also need moral support. During the last month, I was in the Luhansk direction. There were such difficult cases that the boys thought that they would go to war, but it turned out that they were not ready for this.

    Consecration of the chapel

    Military priest Volodymyr Pedko took part in the consecration of the chapel

    In Cherkasy, my work consists of two parts. The first is the training of the defenders who are going to go to the front. It is moral training of the fighting spirit, the defender’s families. So those relatives will not ask on the phone: “Where are you?”, will not call several times. We communicate a lot with families. Especially with those , whose fighters are already fighting, because it is even more difficult for them.

    Do not lose the sense of trust in the military

    The most important thing we ask relatives is to trust our soldiers. If they do not answer, disappear from communication, or cannot speak, then relatives should not lose the sense of trust in the military.

    Also, relatives should be stress-resistant. Because when the fighters call and fall into the same stressful state of the family, it turns out that it is as if two sick people are treating each other.

    “It is very important for relatives to keep a cool head, try to calm down as much as possible, so that the military feels supported and sees the existence of resistance”.

    It is important to talk less about problems from civil life, and not burden yourself with negative events. Personal relationships should be singled out.

    There were rare cases when family relationships broke up.Therefore, we ask not to make decisions about divorce over the phone, at a distance, until the person returns or completes his or her service.

    After all, in a stressful situation, a person can become dangerous both for himself/herself and for others.  

    Sunday service for soldiers

    Sunday service for soldiers of the Cherkasy Territorial Defense

    The second part is working with those who have already returned. We are in constant contact with them. There are different moods: someone is angry that he was returned, someone is in a depressed state.

    About the chaplain’s medical care

    In addition to spiritual work, each chaplain chooses for himself some practical function that he can perform while still on the front lines. After all, religious ceremonies sometimes are not on time. Because completing full-fledged and long-lasting church rites is appropriate in a peaceful environment and it is risky on the battlefield. So to be more closer to the boys and girls of the military, the chaplain chooses an additional practical function. Someone in the kitchen helps to prepare food and transport to the positions. Someone can help to sort out the equipment, someone helps to load cartridges.

    “I chose the medical direction for myself. I am a combat medic who will provide emergency aid in areas under fire and in shelter”. 

    For this purpose, I completed training courses for a combat medic, which meets the American Combat Medic standard. I improved my theory and practice of providing medical aid under fire and undercover according to the TCCC AC protocol and the MARCH PAWS algorithm.

    The hardest thing is when you realize that someone could not be saved

    I’m an empathic person, so I worry a lot about my wards. But as much as we worry about someone with a broken leg, we can’t feel the pain they feel. It’s harder for me to accept the fact that we didn’t save someone or didn’t reach the right place. For example, he was the 300th and became the 200th. This thing is scary. If we talk about our function as chaplains, then it is more difficult to understand that we did not have time, or we were not able to do something, or did not choose the right words. This is difficult. We perceive all other situations as commonplace.

    Read also: Kateryna Yalova: «There was not a day that I regretted becoming a police officer»

    When you see a war, you begin to perceive it as an ordinary everyday thing that needs to be resolved. If you don’t perceive it as cold-blooded, the brain may not be able to withstand it. 

    Defenders find themselves at the front

    There is a very good expression that there are no atheists in the trenches. In an emergency, dangerous situation, 99.9% of people turn to some higher power. Another question is when we return to a peaceful life, is whether a person will want to continue the trend of spiritual development.

    But it happens that soldiers, returning from the front, begin to believe in God. I have been personally acquainted with many fighters from Cherkasy for several years and I know how they behaved in the ordinary civilian realities of life. Now they have changed a lot, they have become completely different people. 

    Humanitarian aid for internally displaced persons

    Volodymyr Pedko handed over humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons

    The guys at the front are also changing from the inside. I see it in the usual sincere hugs and looks. The boys there find their inner selves, those they lost here, in a peaceful life.

    How could God allow war in Ukraine?

    In general, watching the events of the war, some people think: “Where was God, who allowed such a disaster in Bucha, Mariupol and other cities of Ukraine.” When such sentiments appear, I personally believe that it is our selfishness, because we are starting to ask such questions only now, when all this has happened in our country.

    Then there is a question: “Where was our God when people were dying in Africa for decades, when there were wars in Syria, when crimes are constantly happening, when in Ukraine the number of deaths from alcoholism is increasing every year?”. Have we done anything to rectify this before?

    “God dwells within us. If I am ready to fight against evil, then I do. If I want to transfer such responsibility to someone, then I ask: «Where is God, why does he not help me?”.

    We are the owners of our land and we have the full will of action, which is given to us by the Almighty. And the enemy also has a full will to act. Everyone is personally responsible for their actions. And I do not shift the responsibility to the one who gave us freedom. If I ask God to destroy all those who have done evil, then by chance I may also be destroyed, because it is possible I may commit some other sins.

    I advise people to learn to take responsibility for themselves, and not transfer it to God and wait for God to fix the situation. And then we will see that God exists in our actions.

    Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
    Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.

    Why is it important to share this story?
    If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.

    АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Diana Bevtsyk


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