Archbishop Borys Gudziak on the tension between Russia and Ukraine

“But really, when it gets down to what he is talking about here, is that ‘Ukraine never should’ve been separated from the Soviet Union, it is a part of Russia, and I’m taking back the land that is rightfully ours.’ That is what this is about,” said Gen. Jack Keane of Putin’s statements on the crisis on the Ukrainian border. As tensions rise and Russian troops move closer to what looks like a full-on invasion, Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia joined Morning Air to discuss the situation in Eastern Europe.

Archbishop Gudziak first addressed Putin’s latest statement in which he argued that Ukraine always was and always has been a part of Russia, culturally, ethnically, and religiously. He believes that Russia has an intrinsic right to the land that Ukraine occupies. His excellency firmly labeled Putin’s statements as a “ridiculous distortion of history and a negation of the human dignity of Ukrainians.”

Gudziak explained that Putin is a product of the KGB philosophy where he was coerced into a Faustian-like pact where he committed to doing whatever it takes to reach his goal. That might include lying, stealing, cheating, and killing, all things that seem to be on the immediate menu. Gudziak said that Putin not only adheres to this way of thinking, but he defends it. He is trying to bring it back to the forefront in his reconstruction of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has been a vibrant beacon of light in its thriving ecosystem since the embrace of democracy. That is deeply contrary to Russia where they have no freedom of the press, limited freedom of religion, and governmental overreach in every conceivable way.

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For thirty years, Ukraine has outshined Russia with its vast improvements on every branch of society. They have established an efficient civic society. They have welcomed people of all religions and ethnicities. “The president is Jewish. There is a patriotic Muslim population, the Crimean Tatars, who are being now persecuted in annexed Crimean, and they’re fervent Ukrainian patriots. This is what Putin wants to snuff out on the border of Russia because freedom is a source of fear for tyrants.”

Since the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, this crisis has created over 2 million refugees, 1.5 million of whom still reside in Ukraine, the other half million having fled to other countries. Those refugees were former inhabitants of the three regions Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea. This rising tension suggests the eventual invasion of more regions which would create millions of more refugees.

“The sad story for Ukrainian Catholics is that every time Russia takes over some part of Ukraine where the Ukrainian Catholic Church exists, sooner or later, whether it’s within a month or a year or ten years or twenty, the Ukrainian Catholic Church is simply obliterated. And this will be the case for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which also endured great persecution, and for other people of goodwill who want to express their spiritual lives, their culture, use their language. It’s really devastating.”

But people are not reacting with despair. They’re not panicking and they’re not running from the confrontation. His excellency said that there has been a stoic sort of response from the Ukrainian people in the face of Russia. They were under the thumb of Russia for years before and they’ve faced this new adversity since 2014 and the Crimean invasion. They will get through this, just as they have gotten through the trials of the past.

Gudziak told a story about a bishop who spent Christmas on the occupied border, tending to those who needed help. The bishop said that he was called over by a Protestant minister who served in the battalion because others needed to go to confession, and he was not able to hear them. Even though they were not of the same faith, that minister wanted to help the bishop help his flock. Religious people are crossing the aisle to come together and face this great crisis together. Gudziak said that it doesn’t matter whether Ukraine is occupied or not. They will not give up their faith.

Listen to the whole segment below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.