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Russian attack comes close to Ukrainian Catholic University

Building in Lviv attacked

AFP PHOTO / Ukrainian Emergency Service

John Burger - published on 07/06/23

"Dad, the church saved us," a child said as his family emerged from shelter in Lviv.

A Russian missile hit a building within 220 yards of the Ukrainian Catholic University in the western city of Lviv. The rocket was one of three Kalibr missiles that got through Ukrainian air defenses the night of July 6. The attack, said to be the most destructive attack on the civilian population in the Lviv region since the beginning of the full-scale war, took the lives of at least five persons and injured at least 37. 

Lviv has been relatively quiet since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. It is far from the front lines in southern and eastern Ukraine.

A total of 10 missiles were launched from the Black Sea in the latest attack.

According to the Ukrainian Catholic University, four university buildings were damaged, but no one was injured on the campus.

“The university is ready to provide temporary housing to those who were forced to leave their homes, to those who lost everything as a result of a rocket attack,” UCU said in a statement. 

Metropolitan Borys Gudziak, Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia and president of the Ukrainian Catholic University, said the “barbaric” attack “deprived hundreds of people of their homes.”

“The attack of innocent civilians by Russia is unconscionable,” Metropolitan Borys said in a statement. “We ask all people to pray, to be informed, and to help as you can.”

“Having just spent two weeks with bishops, clergy, politicians, students, soldiers, mothers and children, widows and orphans, I can say that Ukrainians are holding strong,” the archbishop continued. “But the danger is daily and real, the trauma is deep, and it behooves the entire free world to respond in support of the brave defenders of freedom and justice.”

“One more crime”

According to the university, many local residents came to the university church of St. Sophia-Wisdom of God for shelter. 

Fr. Nazariy Mysiakovskyi, dean of campus ministry, said that he overheard a child leaving the church later, saying, “Dad, the Church saved us.”

Employees and students of the Ukrainian Catholic University helped the injured people during the night, bringing water, respirators, and assisting the rescue teams in clearing debris.

Two UCU graduates who live in the house where the rocket hit said their building was completely civilian, and most of the residents are of retirement age.

“Well, this is one more crime of Putin’s regime,” UCU vice-rector Myroslav Marynovych told Aleteia in an email. “Thank God, the courage of our people is undoubtful, and nobody is speaking about the need to give up.”

The five dead ranged in age from 21 to 95, according to the BBC. The mayor of Lviv described it as “one of the biggest attacks” on the city’s civilian infrastructure. Russian state TV said the building that was hit was a defense academy.

It described the Ukrainian reports of a residential building being hit as “propaganda,” the BBC said.

Volodymyr Turchynovskyy, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at UCU, ran into a family at about 4 in the morning heading to a building on campus. The five-year old girl told him, “The most important thing is that we all are alive, thank God!” They all survived after their building was hit by a missile. 

“I was struck by that girl’s eyes, tone of her voice and the unchildish maturity of her words,” Turchynovskyy told Aleteia. “She was born into this war and for her, Ukraine has always been a battlefield for freedom. And it was today that that ugly war came unimaginably close to her and her dearest. At that age you should live your life as an everlasting and joyous adventure. Yet, the reality she lives in doesn’t care about her being a child: she knew she was lucky to stay alive while not all of the neighbors did.”

Turchynovskyy said he kept thinking about the girl as he arrived on the scene of the missile strike. 

“She was the future of Ukraine,” he said. “She overcame her fear, she sounded very resolute and deep in her heart she knew that she was born to be free and to live a culture of life in a free land of Ukraine.”

Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, head of the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Lviv, has called for prayers for the deceased and for peace in Ukraine.

Speaking to Vatican News, he described the pain and fear experienced by the people in his city.

A mother and daughter who lost their lives were Latin Catholics who were members of a foundation that helps children with incurable diseases, according to the archbishop.

In Lviv, Archbishop Mokrzycki explained, “we often hear the sound of sirens, and many people frequently seek shelter. However, in this particular building, the occupants were unable to reach the shelter as it was nighttime when the attack occurred. They were sleeping peacefully and tragically lost their lives.”

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