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Church

Archbishop Evstratiy Chernihiv and Nizhyn Speaks about War in Ukraine

BOSTON – His Eminence Archbishop Evstratiy of Chernihiv and Nizhyn, the closest co-worker of His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanios, the head of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Ukraine, provided a telephone interview to The National Herald on Sunday evening, February 27 about the war that Russia has launched against his country. He spoke about Kyiv, which was calm at the time of the interview but has since deteriorated into a dangerous and potentially tragic situation.

The entire interview follows:

The National Herald: Thank Your Eminence for this interview. Can you please describe the situation in Kyiv as we speak?

Archbishop Evstratiy: The general situation is not bad in Kyiv as the city is controlled by the Ukrainian government. Some small Russian groups are fighting but local military, police, and army forces are fighting and eliminating them. The local mayor issued a prohibition from yesterday evening until tomorrow morning for the citizens not to be on the streets because it is dangerous, so we are staying in our places. We have all [necessary] supplies: gas, electricity, communication, food. Nothing special happened inside the city. Many habitants have left Kyiv the past few days but now it is not possible to leave because from all directions around Kyiv blockades have been placed to try to prevent tanks from entering the city.

TNH: How is His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanios doing?

Archbishop Evstratiy: He is OK. He is in a safe place. Every day he communicates with the flock. We understand that he is among the top targets of the Russians and we keep him protected.

His Eminence Archbishop Evstratiy of Chernihiv and Nizhyn prays for the end of the war. (Photo by FOS FANARIOY)

TNH: Are there any clergy casualties?

Archbishop Evstratiy: Thank God we have no casualties of clergy and we hope the situation will be the same the next day and the next, until the war ends.

TNH: What do you expect from the American government?

Archbishop Evstratiy: You know, what has happened with Ukraine to me is similar to the Second World War. As you know, at the very beginning of the Second World War the United States was neutral and tried not to interfere in a European War, but the lesson of that time is that neutrality is not the real way to keep peace anywhere. In order for the contemporary World to be secure it must have alliances, to have agreements in order to have the power to preserve order. Now we see that United Stated understand the lessons of history and it provides support to Ukraine as much as possible and helps us to unite with all other democratic free countries around one goal: to protect Ukraine as a place of dignity and freedom, and to protect the very future of Europe. We are fighting for our democracy and our freedom and we are standing in front of the aggression of Putin’s regime against the entire free world.

I read on the Internet that every possible step – even those that cause economic pain – must be taken. Russia must be kept out of the Security Council because this an unbelievable situation. Putin is similar to Hitler, but he heads the Security Council because of the rules of the United Nations. These rules were adopted with the thought that every major state will act responsibly. Now we see that Russia uses these rules to actualize their own aggression… I think people have to understand that political and economic [pressure] must be applied and everything possible must be done now, because every day, every hour has a huge cost, because every hour people are suffering and dying, every hour of this war has a cost.

TNH: Are you happy with Greece’s stand? They are sending humanitarian aid as well as military supplies.

Archbishop Evstratiy: Yes, we are so happy that Greece as a member state of the European Union and NATO, as a state with a long history that knows how to fight for self-identity and freedom [supports us]. They understand our goals. It is so painful for us as a nation that one of the battlefields of this war is in an area where Greeks of Ukraine have lived for centuries, in Mariupol. We are so sorry that some Ukrainians of Greek origin were killed by Russians.

TNH: Do you worry about the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church? What is going to happen now with this war?

Archbishop Evstratiy: We have a local Church as a nation, and as a nation we received the Tomos of Autocephaly and as a Church we will remain on Ukrainian soil because we are part of our nation and nations do not disappear. I expect that after the end of this war many people who until now were under the influence of Russian Church propaganda and believed that the autocephaly is not real, that the Tomos is not right, and so on, will leave the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, especially because of the behavior of Patriarch Kirill himself. He delivered a sermon at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow and said some very cynical words about what has happened. He said that he believes that the unity [of the holy canons] will not be ruined, and that everything will end very soon. He blessed all efforts to achieve very soon “peace and unity between the Ukrainians and us.”

His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanios of Kyiv and All Ukraine, His Eminence Archbishop Evstratiy of Chernihiv and Nizhyn, and Ukrainian clergy with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on his birth island of Imbros. (Photo by FOS FANARIOY)

TNH: Do you see an end of this war very soon?

Archbishop Evstratiy: It is unpredictable. Putin believed that in a few days he would be in Kyiv. In his imagination only a small group of nationalists keep up the fight and that the majority of the people push them away and are friends of the Kremlin, but in reality he is facing the fact that this a national war. A war not only for the armed forces, for people who are specially trained for war, but for everybody who stands against aggression.

Today I saw a video of the people of my Eparchy, a small town, who went on the road and stood in front of a Russian tank and forced this tank to go away. Our people don’t fear tanks but the Russian troops fear the strong spirit of Ukrainians.

I believe that the weekly political, economic, and humanitarian cost is so great that Putin will not be able to continue this aggression for a long time, because the Russian economy will collapse. The ruble will collapse – banks will be destroyed due to the panic of depositors, and then the people of Russia will see the real picture of what is happening in Ukraine. According to the minister of defense 4,300 soldiers were killed in less than four days. During the ten years of the war in Afghanistan 13,000 thousand Russian soldiers were killed.

Today His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanios directly addressed Patriarch Kirill and said “you may not care about Ukrainians but you should care about Russians.”

TNH: Would you comment about the actions of the Exarchy of the Patriarchate of Moscow that were directed against the Patriarchate of Alexandria?

Archbishop Evstratiy: At the very beginning His Beatitude Epiphanios sent a letter of support to the Patriarch of Alexandria Theodoros condemning everything the Russians are doing in Africa. The Russian Church did more or less the same things that Putin is doing now in Ukraine. The Russian Church doesn’t have military orders as it had in the medieval times, but ecclesiastically the Church of Russia did something similar to what the government of Russia is doing to Ukraine now.

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