‘I wake up with sweaty palms’ — How Ukrainian Latter-day Saints are fighting fear with faith and food storage


Katia Serdyuk rose earlier than daybreak Feb. 24, simply as she had each morning, squeezing in just a few hours of labor as a translator for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whereas the world was nonetheless quiet.

Quickly, she knew, the home would buzz together with her daughter and son-in-law and their 4 kids, whom she shared a home with in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv. However for just a few pre-dawn hours, she was free to commit her consideration solely to verb conjugations and sentence constructions.

Besides it wasn’t her grandchildren who broke her focus that morning. The household was nonetheless asleep when, round 5 a.m., bombs exploded overhead.

“It was horrifying,” she mentioned. “It was so loud and early within the morning.”

Within the hours and days which have adopted Russia’s invasion, Serdyuk, who was baptized into the LDS Church in 1996, mentioned Ukrainian Latter-day Saints have banded collectively, tapping their shut ties and preexisting help constructions to assist strengthen each other amid the escalating violence.

(Alexandra Vyshneva) Katia Serdyuk poses in entrance of the Kyiv Temple. Baptized in 1996, she says regardless of concern for his or her households, native Latter-day Saints have turned to at least one one other for help and luxury.

“We name one another and attempt to discover out who wants assist,” she mentioned, “particularly the aged and people with younger kids.”

Interviews with eight Ukrainian Latter-day Saints recommend Serdyuk and her congregation are removed from the anomaly. Time and again, these members from the besieged nation cited their church group as enjoying a pivotal position as nightly raids topple buildings and Russian troops encroach on their cities and neighborhoods.

‘We’re not panicking’

Marina and Bogdon Pryshcheupchuk dwell with their 16-year-old son in Bila Tserkva, a metropolis 50 miles southwest of Kyiv. Because the invasion started, they mentioned their Latter-day Saint congregation has been speaking “always” by a bunch chat, sharing information, inquiring after each other, and pooling assets — together with meals, drugs, cash and underground shelter.

“We’re not panicking,” mentioned Bogdon, including that the congregation had gone as far as to create a turn-based system of prayer. That means, an hour by no means goes by with out somebody within the congregation supplicating on behalf of the others and the nation.

Each agreed that contributing to this sense of calm was the truth that their congregation had obtained and adopted instruction from native leaders two months previous to retailer up essential provides as a congregation. On the similar time, every household was advised to create an emergency suitcase with important paperwork along with sufficient meals and water to carry their family over for at the very least 72 hours.

“We had been making ready at full pace,” Marina mentioned.

Marina and Bogdon Pryshcheupchuk in Bila Tserkva. The photograph was taken on her birthday, Feb. 23, 2022. The bombing started the subsequent morning.

Rostyslav Lukach and his spouse, Maryna, dwell with their canine and cat in a suburb of Kyiv. Till the second the bombing started, the previous enterprise college professor had remained skeptical that Russian President Vladimir Putin would comply with by on his threats to invade. Waking as much as the explosions Thursday morning, he felt stunned and “very nervous.”

The subsequent day, native Latter-day Saint leaders despatched a textual content asking all the lads within the congregation to achieve out to the people they had been assigned to minister to and decide who wanted assist with meals and procuring.

When Lukach contacted the 2 widows assigned to him, he mentioned he discovered them in a great temper. “We laughed and joked and supported one another. Truly,” he chuckled. “They tried to help me.”

Church help from overseas

Help from fellow Latter-day Saints hasn’t been restricted to space congregations.

“All of the missionaries that served in Ukraine preserve sending help and prayers,” Bogdon Pryshcheupchuk mentioned. Then, chatting with the church’s normal membership, he added: “Your prayers and fasts are actually useful now.”

Sergei and Ludmila, who requested that their final names not be used out of concern for his or her security, have been significantly grateful for the help they’ve obtained from Latter-day Saints dwelling in Utah.

Fearing battle, the couple left their house within the Ukrainian metropolis of Zhytomyr in January for California, their three kids in tow. They rapidly realized, nevertheless, that they couldn’t afford the price of hire and accepted a proposal from the dad and mom of the missionary who, in 2016, had taught and baptized Sergei to remain of their house in Kaysville.

Since they’ve arrived, they mentioned they’ve obtained help from native Latter-day Saints starting from fundamentals like meals and furnishings to cash whereas Sergei applies for political asylum and secures the documentation wanted to work in the USA.

“We wish to thank the LDS group in Utah for his or her help and their love,” Ludmila mentioned. “It will have been a lot tougher with out this help.”

For Serdyuk, maybe essentially the most significant outreach has come from Russian Latter-day Saints. As a volunteer administrator for an academic program designed for college-age members, generally known as BYU–Pathway Worldwide, she mentioned she’s repeatedly in touch with Latter-day Saint college students from Moscow and Siberia. The day after the bombing started, she discovered herself in a gathering with a lot of them.

“I simply couldn’t take a look at them like my enemies,” she mentioned.

The sensation was mutual. Nearly instantly, the youthful Russian attendees started to precise concern and apologize for the circumstances now dealing with Serdyuk and her individuals.

“They usually had been honest,” she mentioned. “I may really feel that.”

‘Why ought to I’m going?’

Mariya Manzhos grew up in Kyiv however left Ukraine in 2002 to attend Brigham Younger College. She now lives in Boston together with her husband and three kids, although her dad and mom and different household stay in Kyiv.

“I’ve been shaking,” she mentioned. “I get up with sweaty palms, scared to have a look at my cellphone.”

She, too, expressed gratitude for the “outpouring of help” from worldwide members of the religion, particularly former missionaries to Ukraine.

Mariya Manzhos, second from proper, and her husband, Zachary Davis, pose together with her dad and mom on their marriage ceremony day in entrance of the Kyiv Temple. The couple now dwell in Boston with their three kids, however Manzhos has remained in fixed communication for the reason that begin of the invasion together with her dad and mom, who stay in Kyiv.

“My dad and mom had been simply telling me,” she mentioned, “how moved they had been with simply how many individuals are providing shelter and welcoming them to return to the USA.”

In contrast to the Pryshcheupchuks, nevertheless, her dad and mom don’t plan to go wherever.

“A part of me is heartbroken,” she mentioned, “however a part of me is like, I get it. There’s one thing highly effective about staying in your house and together with your individuals throughout turbulent occasions.”

Now all that’s left, she mentioned, is to hope and belief.

“My dad and mom have mentioned a number of occasions that they’re attempting to depend on religion and prayer, to think about Christ and be sturdy,” she mentioned. “I feel in moments like this, when issues are out of your management, that’s if you actually depend on religion.”

Rosytslav Lukach doesn’t see himself packing up both — irrespective of how harmful issues get.

“It’s my nation,” he mentioned. “It’s my land. Why ought to I’m going?”

Within the meantime, he mentioned, he feels hopeful, a sense he attributed to his religion.

“Data of the Lord Jesus Christ’s holy plan is and was and at all times can be essential to my spouse’s and my optimism,” he mentioned. “That’s the core.”

The church’s response

The Utah-based church confirmed Monday that it “doesn’t have any overseas full-time missionaries in Russia,” explaining that as of mid-February, roughly 50 “volunteers” had taken assignments elsewhere.

The church moved its full-time missionaries out of Ukraine in January because of the rising tensions, quickly reassigning them to different elements of Europe.

The religion’s governing First Presidency issued an announcement the day after the invasion started calling for peace.

“We pray that this armed battle will finish rapidly, that the controversies will finish peacefully and that peace will prevail amongst nations and inside our personal hearts,” the discharge learn. “We plead with world leaders to hunt for such resolutions and peace.”

Church spokesperson Sam Penrod confirmed that the Latter-day Saint temple in Kyiv had closed.

Greater than 11,000 Latter-day Saints dwell in Ukraine, based on the church’s web site. The church doesn’t record its statistics for Russia, although it reportedly had about 23,000 members there in 2018 scattered amongst almost 100 congregations.

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