Haunting Interviews From Ukraine

Editors’ note: As the war in Ukraine continues to escalate in recent days, we bring you this audio report by U.S. journalist Barb Fraze, who had the challenging assignment of reporting from a distance on the impact of the war on the faith of Ukrainians. She interviewed nearly 20 people for her article, sometimes with the help of a translator, who shared their personal stories. She honored their trust and vulnerability in “Finding God in Times of War,” in the March 2023 issue of ONE. Here, she shares the impact these interviews had on her and the words and images that lingered. Listen to Barb’s original audio clip below. A full transcript of the English translation of the audio report follows.

Ukraine haunts my thoughts. I can only imagine being huddled in a cold, wet basement in 20-degree weather with missiles shaking the foundation of my house. I have done some winter camping and it has gotten that cold. It is fine in a dry tent, wrapped in a sleeping bag. But in Ukraine, there is no hiking out the next day to a warm car or home.

As I record this, Ukraine is preparing for a second land invasion from Russia and is trying to restore its destroyed utilities. When I interviewed Ukrainians for my story for ONE magazine, several people spoke of the heroic work of utility workers on the job, round the clock, when missiles hit, so that people can resume a semblance of normalcy as soon as possible.

I interviewed dozens of people for the story for the March issue of ONE magazine. One thing that struck me was the little graces and everyday heroes during the war. For instance, early on, the Ukrainian Catholic University began a project called Little Stories of a Big War. The site is still available by searching on the university’s webpage.

Members of the L’Arche community and Faith and Light hold virtual prayer services each week. Parishioners prepare aid and send it to the front. Everyone was grateful for help from the West, although one priest I spoke to said it took too long.

“The Western world betrayed us at the beginning,” he said, adding that businesses did not want to break ties with Russia.

“Ukraine asked for tools to defend itself and was given help little by little, so as not to escalate the war,” he said. “But how can the country escalate a situation in which civilians are being targeted?

“Today, he said, “it’s very nice to speak about Ukrainian courage, but it costs thousands, hundreds of thousands, of victims.”

Barb Fraze is a freelance journalist specializing in international affairs and religion. For more than 35 years, she served as the international editor of Catholic News Service.

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