Smell of the sheep in Ukraine is death and scorched homes

There’s no doubt suffering has its own unique smell and associations, a priest serving in Ukraine says.

For him, the smell of burned homes and lives is tied to the metaphoric “smell of sheep”.

Francis says priests need to learn what suffering smells like. It will be coming from human lives and they need to look after them, in the same way as shepherds care for their flocks.

“Every city has its own smell of suffering. It can’t be described. The church here must become saturated with this smell and stay close by with different ways of helping,” says Father Oleksandr Khalayim.

“The real church is a flexible church” that can be wherever it is needed.

Khalayim, a military chaplain and missionary of mercy, lives near the borders of Moldova and Romania.

Bringing mercy and forgiveness as a chaplain to a war zone requires “dialogue before forgiveness,” he says.

“Forgiveness must be accepted and it is a long journey” that may take “three or four generations.”

“For me, right now it is hard to talk about forgiveness if bombs keep coming, if children are still being killed, if our cities are still being bombed.

“To forgive what women and children have suffered is truly difficult.”

He acknowledges that as Christians we must talk about forgiveness. At the same time, exploiting the word “forgiveness” is not acceptable, as forgiveness comes with responsibility.

“God forgave not just with words but with his heart. It will be necessary to have a long period of care for the heart,” he says.

When he’s speaking to soldiers in his role as a missionary of mercy, Khalayim says he explains that mercy means asking them not to kill if it is possible.

That’s not easy for those on the frontlines defending their country.

“Even this is mercy — to defend your home and family,” Khalayim says.

When the war broke out, he says he chose to help like a shepherd by being close to people — soldiers, volunteers and especially the elderly, “so no one feels alone.”

The church in Ukraine smells of burning, war and death, he says.

In Bucha and Gostomel, there is “the stench of things scorched” and, in Chernihiv, it smells like “abandonment with everything destroyed” and people left on their own and helpless.

“One person couldn’t move for five days, no one could help. The only thing she could do was get water from the home heating radiator to drink. That’s how she survived.”

Solidarity and assistance to Ukraine are important, Khalayim says.

People who will seek out the truth are necessary as well, he adds.

“The enemy hides behind many lies and propaganda. The truth cries out, there is no need to be afraid to tell the truth.”

At the same time, Khalayim admits exposing the truth may come at a cost and result in losing material security or one’s own life.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,