Dead in the streets, people fleeing

Fr Semenkov, priest in Kharkiv, made known that 100 thousand people lived in Sloviansk, 5 thousand remained " "

“It’s a disaster”. The otherwise joyful temperament and optimistic nature of Fr Gregroriy Semenkov is cracked, overburdened by sadness. The priest lives in Kharkiv, 40 kilometers from Russia, and the Latin Catholic diocese includes the city of Donetsk, Lugansk, Mariupol, Sloviansk, devastated by a conflict that day after day is escalating into a veritable bloodshed. The news given by Fr Gregroriy are a war bulletin. Corpses and fears of epidemics. “On Sunday – he said – a lady from Donetsk came to tell us that in the city the situation is tragic. Armed men stop buses, they take the men on the buses and bring them away to use them as human shields during the attacks. She said that in the city, at the airport in particular, there are dead bodies all over and as the heat mounts they fear epidemics. The city is full of corpses. The lady came to Kharkiv to ask a visa for 300 children so they may bring them away, in Poland”. Also another woman from Sloviansk said that “while she fled and tried to seek shelter, she saw dead people on the ground”. The armed strife in this region to the east of Ukraine is incessant. Troops in Kiev managed to liberate the important port city of Mariupol, in the separatist region of Donetsk. But on the same day forty-nine Ukrainian soldiers died on a military cargo carrying troops and food supplies to the airport of Lugansk. It crashed under the anti-aircraft artillery of pro-Russian separatists. It’s the greatest loss suffered by government forces since the outbreak of the military offensive in Kiev to try to quell the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. A humanitarian corridor. As in every armed conflict also here, in this corner of Europe, people take flight. They seek shelter elsewhere, somewhere safe. The figures are yet to be verified. According to the agency “” 15thousand people have left the city of Donetsk. Fr Gregroriy said that 100 thousand people lived in Sloviansk, and now there are only 5 thousand left. The councillor of the minister of Interiors of Ukraine, Zoryan Shkiryak, announced that the security forces are organizing a humanitarian corridor in the north of the region of Donetsk, near Krasny Liman, to enable civilians to leave these areas. The government has been setting up also hospitality centres for refugees and making lists. The Church is close to the population. In Sloviansk the Polish priest couldn’t return to the city. In Lugansk and Donetsk the parish priests are all still there. At present, the situation in Kharkiv seems under control. But the news and the warnings of secret services put the population in a state of constant tension. Masses are celebrated normally. Prayer is the force of these people. Believers from various churches in Donetsk pray every day in the centre of the city for peace and the unity of Ukraine. A prayer “marathon” that past June 12 has celebrated its one hundredth day with the participation of 80 people, and exceptional presence, given the danger of a similar initiative. Now a pavillon has been set up in the prayer site, which protestant pastor Sergey Kosiak described on his Facebook page as “a sign of hope for the city”. The bishop said: “God is our force”. The appointment in Kharkiv is in Independence Square every day, at 7 am, under the Lenin’s imposing statue. Also here there are prayers for peace and unity in the Country. And also here prayer takes place together: Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants. Upon his entry in the diocese, the first words of the bishop Msgr. Stanislao Szyrokoradiuk, have been: “an appeal of prayer for peace and an appeal to fast because our force is God, not weapons”.

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