About faith, war, and miracles of salvation
He has spent a decade in the war. He has performed baptisms for soldiers and officiated weddings at the front. He shared customary meals and offered prayers with them amidst intense bombardment. His faith and prayers were crucial for his and others’ survival.
Our guest is unique! Yevhen Orda, from Chernihiv, Ukraine, is a military chaplain and a long-time volunteer who has experienced a lot in Eastern Ukraine, including being a prisoner.
“For me, serving God and Ukraine goes hand in hand.”
Today, we’re talking with Father Yevhen about miracles, faith during the war, Christmas at the front, helping soldiers, and the role of chaplains.
When the first attack happens, everyone remembers to pray
“The role of a chaplain is crucial in wartime. He gives soldiers a spiritual foundation. They come to him with problems, seeking talks, and comfort. A priest at the front is like a parent, someone to talk to and share feelings with. It’s powerful when someone just listens to you with love.”
We asked about the saying that there are no atheists in trenches…
“In my experience, almost everyone in war believes in something. They believe in their fellow soldiers, in support, love, and prayers from family and friends. They also turn to God. For a soldier going through tough times, believing in survival through prayers – their own and those from loved ones – gives strength and motivation. Individuals turn to prayer in times of war. At the first attack, everyone prays, even in their own words if they don’t know traditional prayers.”
War is terrifying and destructive; it not only destroys physically but also disrupts our everyday life. The most important thing is not to lose hope when everything changes. Many soldiers say they have seen miracles in war. Those who survived attacks talk about feeling the support of prayers and divine help…
“From my experience, almost everyone in war believes in something. I have a brave soldier friend who does not believe in God. We have talked a lot; he respects me, but he is an atheist. But exceptions prove the rule. It is important that soldiers keep believing they are fighting for Ukraine and that they are needed at home and by their country.”
“We were saved by prayer and faith. I was worried about kids,” he says, sounding emotional.
“I knew they had to survive, no matter what happened to me. I survived because I wanted to see them again. Our salvation came through prayer and faith. We were in a basement, praying all the time. I have never prayed so much. I believed we would all be saved. ‘According to your faith, it shall be done unto you’ – and we all made it out. Our house in Bobrovytsia, Ukraine, was destroyed; now I live in an apartment with my student son. Seeing the rebuilding of destroyed areas is encouraging. We will rebuild everything. No adversary can erase Ukraine. It’s here to stay!”
Military Chaplain – Supporting Soldiers
“I have conducted baptisms for soldiers and officiated frontline weddings. I remember baptizing a soldier from Azerbaijan who, after many battles, felt God’s support and decided to get baptized.”
I asked Father Yevhen about how war and faith intersect.
“Our war is centred on defence, implying a love for those we safeguard. War is frightening. Our role is to help soldiers keep going, reminding them that their actions demonstrate immense love for their country and families. Everyone possesses both positive and negative aspects. My duty as a chaplain is to encourage the good and fight the bad.”
How Father Yevhen became a military chaplain is rooted in his dedication to the young people of Chernihiv, Ukraine, particularly those associated with the Tryzub named after Stepan Bandera. Inspired by the significant Ukrainian nationalist symbol, many from this group, some of whom Father Yevhen knew personally, joined the war effort from Maidan. Father Yevhen reflected on the journey, saying,
“The Church always stands with its people. You cannot just stay inside the church when your parishioners are at war. I accompanied the young soldiers to the Eastern battlefronts. They were young, around 20, and needed my support. So, I joined them, and that is how I became a military chaplain. Sadly, many have since lost their lives.”
Father Yevhen has a diverse background in service. He was initially near Donetsk with the “Carpathian Sich” group before he served with OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) battalions and DUK ‘PS’ (Right Sector Volunteer Corps).
Recently, he fulfilled the role of chaplain in the National Guard. Father Yevhen is currently constructing the Church of Ivan the Warrior in Chernihiv, Ukraine – an important project. Despite the significance of this undertaking, he emphasizes the crucial support for the frontlines. Father Yevhen has often faced danger at the front, such as the time a shell nearly hit him during a service. The threat is ever-present, a reminder of the constant threat. Currently, he administers communion, hears soldiers’ confessions, and offers prayers for their well-being in brief ceremonies due to the persistent threat of assault.
Father Yevhen has made numerous trips to the front with volunteer aid.
“I purchase equipment like thermal imagers and binoculars for the soldiers. People actively participate and help: when it is a Ukrainian priest, they trust him. Our soldiers really need this help. In the Chernihiv region, Ukraine, almost everyone knows someone who’s fighting or has died for Ukraine. It is cold now, so our first priority is to keep our soldiers warm and to send them holiday treats. Letters and drawings from children hold a special place for them, kept near their hearts.”
Christmas on the Front Lines and in Hearts
Military chaplains often have a lot to do before Christmas. Father Eugene shares insight into Christmas on the front lines:
“The soldiers, especially those from Western and Central Ukraine, strive to celebrate Christmas Eve. They pass on our traditions to others. When possible, they set up a festive table and even get essential dishes from military chaplains or volunteers. They also have a tradition of carolling and performing nativity scenes.
For soldiers, Christmas is a great holiday as many volunteers and family members visit them with packages, drawings, and letters from children. This important gesture helps create a sense of home and family for them. I usually celebrate Christmas with my parish, but during the 10 years of conflict with Russia, I have occasionally celebrated with the soldiers in combat zones.”
Christmas is important to Ukrainians as it gives hope for a brighter, better, and everlasting future.
Celebrating Christmas involves glorifying Christ through prayers, carols, and acts of kindness. Connecting with God can be achieved in various ways, including through faith, following traditions, and reading the Bible. God is always welcoming.
Amidst the holiday bustle, it is crucial to reflect the real meaning of Christmas.
Finding the Christmas spirit extends beyond preparing the twelve traditional dishes; it is about finding joy in helping others through good deeds.
“Not long ago, on St. Nicholas Day (a traditional holiday celebrated in early December in Ukraine and other parts of Europe), we took gifts to our first tank brigade in Siversk, Ukraine. They show remarkable bravery.”
“They always look forward to simple joys like children’s drawings and letters, which reassures them that they are remembered.
I remember being surprised as a kid that adults always wished for peace during Christmas. Now, I understand how important that is. When you pray, pray for peace – a peace that helps Ukraine and gives our children a safe future.”
Father Yevhen urged everyone to support the soldiers risking their lives to defend Ukraine.
We should help the Ukrainian army and work towards victory. Prayers should be accompanied by concrete actions. We ought to provide support to the military front lines, make donations, purchase essential equipment, and send gifts and letters to the troops.
“The army requires backing from the rear to be successful. We must stand together. God loves Ukrainians, having blessed us with a beautiful land. With His assistance, we will defend it.”