A grave of a civilian killed during Russian attacks on Mariupol, Ukraine, is seen next to a damaged apartment building April 28. CNS photo/Alexander Ermochenko, Reuters

Ukraine’s Passion at the hands of Putin

By  Lubomyr Luciuk, Catholic Register Special
  • May 6, 2022

I have written that I am a man of conflicted faith. Yet though I lecture as a professor of political geography, I cannot but bear witness to Ukraine’s agony through the lens of my religion, the faith of my Ukrainian Catholic ancestors. To that I confess, wholeheartedly.

Ukraine’s tortures have become, as it were, my daily bread. I eat its distress, gagging as I symbolically consume the flesh and blood of the many murdered by Russia’s legions. The land of my predecessors has again become a Golgotha, a place of skulls. This is Vladimir Putin’s doing.

What is happening as I write is the Passion of Ukraine. An entire country is being scourged, and a concerted attempt made at its extinction. Putin’s tormenting designs are devilish. Left unchecked, this KGB man in the Kremlin, this president-in-perpetuity of the so-called Russian “Federation,” will despoil the world we know. The coming new world order, from which Ukraine is being excised, will not be to our liking. We should have forearmed ourselves.

But the rough beast has come, Russia’s slouching tsar. Soon he will offer a kind of communion to those he is sacrificing, ironically in the breadbasket of Europe. They must eat of his bread, acquiesce to his corrupted vision of how Ukraine never existed, accept erasure from memory of three decades of independence as if it was nothing more than a mirage, best forgotten.

He will entice Ukrainians to lay down their arms, insist their continued resistance is futile, remind them they have not found much real help in this world, have no angels waiting to catch them. Why jump, he will ask the “Little Russians” — as he derogatorily refers to Ukrainians — when all can see there are no angels ready to break the fall.

Ukrainians will reject this temptation. These are not a people willing to accept the yoke of Putin, the mark of this beast. Even when he finally offers them the chance to join his new Russian empire, they will not give in.

Why? Because, from 1991, from the first days of Ukraine’s independence, and indeed for many centuries before, Ukrainians have sought only their country’s return to its rightful place in Europe. They have never lusted for their neighbours’ lands or wealth. By deeds and words, especially over these past three decades, they have stood with the liberal-democratic world, committed to a rules-based international order.

They believed this was the way to secure real peace, build an architecture of stability sustained by the better angels they were told uphold Western civilization. Since Feb. 24, 2022 they have learned the fallacy of that faith. Now they are fighting and dying alone.

So a gloating Putin appears before us, not a deranged despot but an ever-clever secret policeman, a trickster, a relentless liar, a remorseless enemy of the light, anathema to everything any decent human being understands by truth or goodwill. Am I exaggerating? Ask any Ukrainian. Yet much of the world still pretends, or prefers, not to see Putin as a species of evil loosed.

Tragically, worse is yet to come. The NATO countries, like Pilate of yore, have washed their hands. They have abandoned an entire nation to the savagery of Putin and his confederates, who seek not Ukraine’s surrender but its national extinction. Those who stand and watch cannot remain innocent. Their platitudes won’t stop his genocide.

Someday, atonement will come. Russians who today succour Putin have the blood of Ukraine’s innocents on their hands. It will be, for their children and children’s children, a baptism staining them for all time, branding them with the mark of Cain.

This is how they will be recognized on the day an even-greater enemy arrives to vanquish Muscovy. Too late they will remember, as they wail and lament, that the seeds of future wars, of their destruction, were planted because of their slavish obedience to Putin, even as the soil of Ukraine was fertilized with the flesh of her martyrs. When they should have staged a real Russian Revolution, they stood by.

Ukrainians never were Russians, and never will be after suffering the devastation of Ukraine’s Passion. The only “good tidings” on offer, a balm for those who endure, is that even as so many have been sacrificed to Moloch, their Ukraine has won this war, its true struggle for independence.

Ukraine is forever lost to Moscow. No matter the battlefield outcomes, Putin’s imperial project has been polluted, his final failure certain.

Godspeed that day.

(Lubomyr Luciuk is a Fellow of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto and a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.)

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