Church unites Russians, Ukranians during wartime

Saint Athanasius Orthodox Church has members from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus worshiping together.

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Behind the doors of an orthodox church in Nicholasville, people from all over the world gather to worship. Father Justin Patterson of Saint Athanasius Orthodox Church says Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusian all leave politics at the door for a common love of God.

“I think there’s questions of politics that might have- we can debate politics but at least at church, everyone is mourning together what happened,” says Father Patterson.

Patterson says while most people in the parish support Ukraine, there are some who support Russia.

“I can’t say there’s a lot of animosity in the parish right now because I think everyone is brokenhearted over the invasion of Ukraine,” says Patterson. “Even the Russians I know, I’ve seen them shed tears, Ukrainians are their brothers and sisters and so there’s that pain among all of them.”

One family at the church is Belarusian and was very emotional when talking about the war.

“She said she feels scarred, pain, sad, regretful that all the people in Ukraine have to feel this way and the children have to be by themselves or without their parents anymore,” Nicholas Staples translated for his grandmother, Ella.

Ella says she has friends and family in Belarus and Ukraine and is worried for their safety. Nicholas says having Russian and Belarusian heritage has made his life a little harder since the war started, a judgement he never expected to face at such a young age, but hopes peace will come soon.

“Some kids from school are hating me because Russia and they just think that like Russia is the villain and yes, they are, but they think I support them but I do not,” says Nicholas.

A student at Asbury University is also heartbroken over the Russian-Ukrainian war and is using social media to amplify their voice. Dani Grace Okhotnikova says they were shocked when the news first broke and the first wave of disbelief has turned to anger, sorrow and shame.

“I hate the new stereotypes that will come up with Russia,” says Okhotnikova.”Because a country’s people and a country’s government are not always the same thing and I think we’re starting to see that.”

Dani Grace says empathy for people on all sides and of all nationalities is needed because words of hate won’t change anything.

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