July 3, 2022

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Because the chairman of philosophy and theology on the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, professor Paul Gavrilyuk spends a lot of his daytime hours knee-deep in analysis about God and man.

His nights are dedicated to a distinct calling — fundraising for academics’ salaries, classroom and medical provides, in addition to knee pads, camouflage gear and tourniquets for troops in his native Ukraine, the nation he emigrated from as a graduate pupil some 30 years in the past.

Inside a month, he hopes to be supporting the manufacture of flak jackets. Pondering long run, he’s already begun discussions with an American boarding college in suburban Texas and a Chicago school to arrange pupil study-abroad experiences as soon as the battle is over.

DONATIONS EXCEED $350,000

Donations now exceed $350,000, together with greater than $100,000 raised by means of his church, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church on Forest Avenue in St. Paul. The well-known Westminster Abbey, the religious middle of the Anglican church in London, contributed its Easter assortment to his new nonprofit, “Rebuild Ukraine” — rebuild-ua.org.

“There’s one thing of a practice, within the japanese European custom, the place the church buildings are well-positioned to reply in a disaster,” mentioned Father Jonathan Proctor of Holy Trinity, who known as Gavrilyuk’s efforts “phenomenal.” Spiritual establishments are identified in Ukraine as “being a dependable technique to get assist to individuals in want, with out an excessive amount of forms.”

If Gavrilyuk has a broad community, it didn’t come collectively in a single day.

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Gavrilyuk has for years run one other nonprofit, the Worldwide Orthodox Theological Affiliation, an instructional affiliation that brings collectively the Jap European Christian group for mega-conferences, like their inaugural convention in Romania, which came about in early 2019.

He has one other mega-conference scheduled for Greece in 2023. He’s been capable of attain out to most of the similar contacts, and others, to assist Ukrainian college kids dwelling as refugees attend courses at two colleges in Lithuania and Montenegro, whereas additionally offering badly wanted provides to civilians who’ve taken up arms to defend their homeland.

A PERSONAL CALLING

His calling is extremely private.

In late February, through the first few days of Russian bombing, Gavrilyuk’s brother satisfied their dad and mom, each of their mid-70s, to flee Kyiv, the capital and most populous metropolis of Ukraine.

“That was a automotive experience that lasted six days and spanned seven nations,” mentioned Gavrilyuk. “They managed to solely have two flat tires … with rockets and shelling overhead.”

At one specific cease in Ternopil, in western Ukraine, the household assumed that they had reached security. Over the course of little greater than a day, air-raid sirens sounded thrice, ushering residents into hiding. They stored driving.

Gavrilyuk’s household is now dwelling as refugees in Lithuania, alongside 1000’s of different Ukrainians who’ve fled their shell-shocked nation. They’re in contact with many others who’ve remained behind, together with non-combatant wives who refuse to flee Ukraine so long as their husbands proceed to combat for the civilian protection troops, a community of 1000’s of on a regular basis Ukrainians. In recent times, army coaching for Ukrainians has been obligatory, with just lately expanded roles for ladies of all ages.

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THEOLOGIAN TURNED SNIPER

Partially consequently, on a regular basis residents have been capable of rapidly transition right into a civilian protection community.

Russia wasn’t anticipating “academics, engineers, the unemployed, college students and others, becoming a member of principally as volunteers or being drafted, present process a coaching of sometimes two weeks to at least one month, and placing their lives at risk,” Gavrilyuk mentioned.

He just lately translated a five-page private account authored by a pal, a fellow theology professor in Ukraine, who was beforehand stationed as a sniper within the Chernobyl space.

“There’s a form of refusal of the nation to easily stay a sufferer,” Gavrilyuk mentioned. “There’s no query they’ve been victimized. However there’s a need at the beginning to supply resistance to what’s a totally unjustified aggression in opposition to Ukraine. This was utterly unprovoked.”

In need of combating, what might be executed, he requested.

“As an instructional, I’ve made my determination to combat in opposition to violence by peaceable means — making a nonprofit that can endure past the battle, and assist rebuild Ukraine on a bigger scale,” he mentioned.

‘HORRIFIC SCENES OF MASS MURDER’

In contrast to another nonprofits, Rebuild Ukraine is utilizing its contacts in and round Ukraine and Lithuania to supply provides starting from boots and neck heaters to thyroid medicines inside Jap Europe. That’s reasonably than work by means of pricier American manufacturing and transport channels, the place transport right into a battle zone could be tougher.

Gavrilyuk has learn by means of harrowing accounts out of cities resembling Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, the place Ukrainian investigators have found 20 to 40 our bodies at a time of executed residents. These are disturbing photos, however his optimism for his homeland endures.

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“The world has seen individuals who had been shot with their fingers tied behind their backs, and horrific scenes of mass homicide of the civilian inhabitants,” Gavrilyuk mentioned. “What the world has not seen — and what the information tales haven’t targeted on — is that Bucha was liberated. I may share an image of a soldier sporting our boots and our protecting provides.”

For extra data, go to rebuild-ua.org.