6 months on… Ukraine

Today is 6 months since the invasion of Ukraine.

It is also Independence Day in Ukraine, in commemoration of the Declaration of Independence of 1991. But public celebrations in Ukraine are banned.

Since the invasion began in February, Russia has occupied 13% more of the country. Ukraine’s economy has been strangulated. Invading soldiers have taken Europe’s largest nuclear plant hostage. Houses, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed. Damage is calculated to be hundreds of billions of dollars. Food production has been disrupted as there’s evidence landmines have been placed to contaminate agricultural areas, and Ukrainian grain harvests have been stolen and even set on fire.

The political history between Ukraine and Russia is complex.

The human cost is tragic.

Tens of thousands have been killed. Invading soldiers have committed unspeakable war crimes and thousands of Ukrainian children have been forcibly relocated to Russia. One-third of Ukrainians have left their homes, sparking the largest refugee crisis since World War II. More than nine million people – around a quarter of the country’s population – have had to seek refuge abroad. Some 7 million people have been displaced internally* within Ukraine and some 13 million people are estimated to be stranded in affected areas or unable to leave due to heightened security risks, destruction of bridges and roads, as well as lack of resources or information on where to find safety and accommodation. (*Internally Displaced People – IDP)

Gendered impacts of the war are another concern. As most of those fleeing Ukraine are women and children, there are numerous further issues affecting them, including: a fear of sexual violence, worry for husbands and sons left behind, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health, vulnerability to trafficking, and loss of livelihoods.

Since February 2022, Australia has granted more than 8,500 visas to Ukrainians. According to The Australian newspaper, around 4,100 of these people have accepted the offer and are now in the country. Under the visa program, displaced Ukrainians can work, study, and access Medicare. The special visa program ended on 31 July. Displaced Ukrainians who missed the deadline will be able to reside in Australia on tourist visas, with no ability to work or access to Medicare.

Practical, pastoral and prayerful support is needed in response to this unfolding tragedy, including for Ukrainian refugees in Australia.

A prayer for peace
God of all peoples and nations,
Who created all things alive and breathing,
United and whole,
Show us the way of peace that is Your overwhelming presence.
We hold before you the peoples of Ukraine and Russia,
Every child and every adult.
We long for the time
When weapons of war are beaten into ploughshares
When nations no longer lift up sword against nation.
We cry out to you for peace;
Protect those who only desire and deserve to live
in security and safety
Comfort those who fear for their lives
and the lives of their loved ones
Be with those who are bereaved.
Change the hearts of those set on violence and aggression
And fill leaders with the wisdom that leads to peace.
Kindle again in us a love of our neighbour,
And a passion for justice to prevail
and a renewed recognition that we all play a part in peace.
Creator of all hear our prayer
And bring us peace. Make us whole. Amen
(Source: Christian Aid)

World Premiere of new film, ‘Mariupol. Unlost Hope’
27th August, 6.30-7.30pm
Venue: Ukrainian Community Centre, Essendon
3-11 Russell St, Essendon
This world premiere of the film will be in Essendon and will also be shown in many cities around the world. This is the story of five citizens, who lived in Mariupol for the first month of the war. They will tell what they saw, how they felt, and how they made decisions during the war. The film is shown with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the “Malvy” branch of the Ukrainian Women’s Association in Victoria.

The Conversation
Association of Ukrainians in Victoria
Ukrainians in Melbourne – Help and Support (Facebook group)
Conflict at the Crossroads