COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — As the war in Ukraine continues to rage, a Ukranian pastor and seminary president brought his message to Columbus Thursday morning.
Dr. Ivan Rusyn addressed a prayer breakfast this morning at First Presbyterian Church. Later that morning he sat down with WRBL for an extended Sunday conversation.
Rusyn lives near Kiev and his world has been altered dramatically since the Russian invasion of Ukraine 16 months ago.
He talked this morning about the horrors of war, but he also spoke of his people’s willingness to fight.
“Frankly speaking, to be in Ukraine now is like you are playing the lottery,” Rusyn. “You never know what location will be hit.”
Rusyn has been playing the lottery since February 24, 2022, when Russia invaded his country.
His seminary – the Ukranian Evangelical Theological Seminary – has been hit by six missiles and bullet-ridden.
He knows the reality and horrors of war. And he knows it’s far from over despite the recent rebellion within the Russian ranks.
“It is a wild war, as wild as you can imagine,” Rusyn said. “The Russians, they are using all kinds of weapons. The only thing they haven’t used is nuclear weapons. However, and this is not an exaggeration, now we are preparing for a nuclear attack.”
As he stays in Columbus this week, Rusyn is working on those plans for his seminary.
Rusyn is cleared by the Ukrainian government to travel aboard and seek help for his seminary and its contribution to the war effort. He befriended Columbus couple Dan and Jill Gilbert and they have traveled to Poland to meet with him.
She was not surprised that those at First Presbyterian hung on Rusyn’s every word Thursday morning.
“You can’t help but be captured by the things he’s saying, the personal aspects he brings to the story,” Jill Gilbert said. “We hear it on the news, but he makes it real. And he shows you their will, strong will, and it just makes it a more personal story to have him speak it.”
And First Presbyterian Pastor Danny Dieth says knowing that churches like his across the country has helped in rewarding. First Presbyterian helped the seminary get a generator.
“It is overwhelming to know that just the little bit we did is changing and saving lives,” Dieth said. “Because the generator is used for power and for food and to feed those who don’t have any access to any of those things.”
Rusyn explained what was at stake.
“And you may wonder, why do we fight? And I want to make it as clear as I can that this war is not about territory,” he told those assembled. “But about the existence of the ethnic group and its identity and freedom. Unfortunately, there is no freedom for the Ukranian identity under Russian dominion. So, for us, fight or die.”
If you want to hear Rusyn speak he will be addressing the congregation Sunday morning at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Midtown Columbus. He is scheduled to speak at the 8:30 and 11 services.