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A prayer for Aunt Olenka

July 2023 – How can one manage to nourish one’s inner life in a country under war ? From Lviv, in Ukraine Ulyana Roy and Rick Hatem offer us their answer

Is there ever a time when nourishing one’s inner life is not a challenge?

In 2014, Russia started a war with Ukraine when it captured Crimea, and on February 24, 2022, the war intensified with a new Russian invasion in Ukraine. Living in Lviv, Ukraine, we certainly face a big challenge in nourishing our inner life these days! The war brings fear and, with frequent air raid warnings and missile attacks, we, as a couple, had to make adjustments to our prayer life: now we remain together rather than taking time to center ourselves in separate spaces. We guard our inner life with walks, music – singing more than listening, reading, writing, playing board games with friends, and in prayer –often in wordless silence.

Among our temptations is to look upon all Russians as evil, and all Ukrainians as defenders of freedom – yet we know reality is more complicated. Following the shock of the February 2022 invasion Ukrainian members of Faith & Light and L’Arche sought a way to support each other even when they could not gather physically. Praying on Zoom was chosen as a good way to assemble and offer prayers for peace and an end to the war together. Initially, the prayer was every day, but as the war dragged on, Mondays and Thursdays were chosen as the time to meet on Zoom, at 8pm in Ukraine. Some Russians regularly join the online prayer, and some Ukrainians have found it too painful to join prayer with Russians while the war continues. For others praying together is a way to hold hope for future peace, to try to be good Christians. Members of Faith & Light and L’Arche, friends from Ukraine, friends from many other time zones and other countries including European countries, North America, Australia, etc. The participants have become a widely dispersed community, singing and praying together.

This prayer on Zoom is a strong support for our inner life. We feel support when our friends with and without disabilities pray naming their needs: for peace, for the return of territories, for people suffering from a damaged dam, for a birthday, for a cat, for a deceased friend, for a safe return from the army to the home of the community leader, for a killed soldier, for good nominations in L’Arche, for a friend who performs in the theater, for Aunt Olenka, for dad and mom, for a trip to the mountains… and many other daily and sincere requests to God. There is a lot of hope in these requests. Each person who participates in this prayer is our witness to the expectation of God’s justice and mercy. For more than a year now, they have been coming and testifying by turning on the Zoom, reading prayers, singing songs. This is a great sign of hope for us. Our inner life would die without a connection to others and their support and encouragement.

Rick & Ulyana

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