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Bohdan and Ihor, seminarians in Rome: "We Ukrainians want to be free".

These seminarians from the Basilian College of St. Josaphat of the Greek Catholic Church are among eight Ukrainians studying at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. From there they live, in permanent contact with family and friends, the dramatic situation in Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

Maria José Atienza-March 10, 2022-Reading time: 3 minutes

Remains of the Mariupol maternity and children's hospital bombed by the Russians ©CNS photo/Ukraine Military/handout via Reuters

Bohdan Bazan and Ihor Luhovyi are two Ukrainian students at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in which they study Institutional Communication of the Church thanks to the help of the collaborators of the Centro Académico Romano Foundation. There they spoke with Gerardo Ferrara about how they live these days in permanent communication with their families and friends.

Ihor Bazan Ukraine
Ihor Bazan

Ihor Bazan, 24 years old, belongs to the Archieparchy of Lviv. This young seminarian has joined the work of a group of volunteers in Rome and communicates daily with Ukrainian teenagers suffering from the war, giving them psychological support, telling them stories that help them not to think too much about the war and offering guidance on how to act in different situations and remain calm.

Bohdan Luhovyi, a native of Bolekhiv, in the western part of Ukraine, studied for six years at the Kiev seminary and belongs to the same Archieparchy to which he will return after finishing his studies in communications. In his opinion "Ukraine is very far from Russia in terms of mentality and values, but close geographically, so Ukraine has often suffered violence from different Russian regimes".

This 26-year-old Ukrainian also appreciates the demonstrations of many Russian citizens against this invasion, which is even costing them prison sentences. In this sense, they emphasize that, in spite of the media manipulation that has been going on in Russia for decades, now, "fortunately, the Russians and the whole world have learned about what is happening and the massacres that are taking place".

Both Ukrainian students fear that the goal of the current Russian government is "the restoration of the Soviet Union and the establishment of its empire in Eastern Europe. This, then, is something that is now happening with Ukraine and is going to happen with other countries."

Bohdan Luhovyi Ukraine
Bohdan Luhovyi

They are also aware of the differences in national consideration between the east and west of the country. While the west of Ukraine is more pro-Ukrainian, Ihor explains, "that is, more aware of its own national identity; the east is the opposite. This problem goes back to the tragedy of the Holodomor".

The Holodomor (Голодомор in Ukrainian and Russian) was one of the great genocides of the 20th century. About 8 million Ukrainians died of starvation during the Stalinist regime.

Ukrainians, say these young seminarians, "do not want to live in a country that only invades and does not develop. Ukrainians' goals are the opposite of Putin's. We want to be free. We want to be free. And we ask the world to free us from this darkness.

The role of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

Both Bohdan and Ihor belong to the Church. Ukrainian Greek Catholic. An Eastern Rite Catholic Church that has played a very important role in the preservation and development of the culture, faith and thought of the Slavic peoples since the beginning of Christianity in Kievan Rus'.

During the Soviet era, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church remained in hiding. "Priests of our Church were in prison, tortured and killed for recognizing Ukraine as a specific identity and being part of the Greek Rite Catholic Church" recalls Ihor. Now, both of them, together with their colleagues from the Basilian College of St. Josaphat of the Greek Catholic Church, are helping as much as they can and above all, they ask for prayers and help to end this conflict as soon as possible and to help the millions of their fellow citizens who have had to leave their homes, jobs and families because of the conflict.

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