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Priest urges support for homeland


A priest from Adelaide’s Ukrainian Catholic community has pleaded for western powers to do more to halt the devastating war in Ukraine.

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Speaking at a Harmony Day event in the Adelaide Archdiocese, Fr Zenjo Racki CSsR asked what more President Vladimir Putin had to do before “our collective moral conscience kicks in strongly enough to do something to stop him”.

“That’s a big question, especially for our Ukrainian people,” he added.

“As you know he has bombed innocent mothers and babies, attacked refugees as they desperately try to escape, murdered starving people as they lined up for bread, blitzed a drama theatre where hundreds of Ukrainians were sheltering.”

Fr Racki said the “beautiful city” of Mariupol, which has a population of 430,000, had been virtually destroyed.

“So where is our red line? When an evil dictator invades a sovereign democratic country and systematically slaughters its people, the rest of the world has historically felt a moral compulsion to stop him. But we dare not actually do anything to stop him, or at least many governments around the world don’t,” he said.

“If today Putin was to invade Germany, France, England, Ireland, America, what would happen? They would stop him straight away, but Ukraine is a poor country and now is trying hard to fight back.”

Fr Racki said there were around four million Catholics in Ukraine and along with Christians from other denominations they were “fighting together for survival”.

“Our church was underground during the Soviet time for many decades; many priests, nuns and Christian people were sent to Siberia to die. We are afraid that will happen again in 2022,” he said.

“What’s happened to us, when we can sit back and watch the innocent people and children dying.”

Maria Papa (left) and Imbi Mannik at the Harmony Day event.

Ukrainian Catholic community member Maria Papa, whose parents came to Australia after World War II, said 95 per cent of her family were in Ukraine and she was “gutted” by what was happening there. Her goddaughter had fled to Poland but her husband had stayed back to fight the Russians.

Third generation Estonian Australian Imbi Mannik told the Harmony Day gathering that many of the Baltic communities in Adelaide – Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians – were impacted by what was been happening in Ukraine.

“On a personal level, the Ukraine situation really hits home for myself and my family, it’s triggering and opening wounds from the past…my late grandparents were refugees having fled Europe post World War II as Russia invaded Estonia and then occupied it for 50 years,” she said.

Fr Zenjo also spoke at an interfaith service in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on March 30. Called ‘Healing Prayers for a Wounded World’, religious leaders were invited by Archbishop Patrick O’Regan to come together to pray at a time of acute crisis in the world as a result of conflict and extreme weather events.

Donations to the Caritas Ukraine Appeal can be made at:


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