The Colorado Springs Gazette

Spiritual leaders to speak in Springs

Ukrainian speakers will discuss horror and hope during the war with Russia


In many cities and villages in Ukraine, people wake up and go about their day, but no matter where they are, a dark cloud of fear and uncertainty hangs over their heads.

A year and a half after Russia attacked its neighbor, indiscriminate bombings and fighting continue in Eastern Europe’s second-largest country.

“Many people work, they go to school and study, but at the same time, almost every day there are air alarms — today we had two,” the Rev. Oleksandr Zelinskyi, director of the Ukraine branch of Eternal Word Television Network, or EWTN, said in a phone interview from Kyiv.

“It causes tension in the hearts and minds of people because sometimes we don’t know where rockets will attack,” he said.

Nonetheless, there is widespread hope for brighter days of victory and peace,

Zelinskyi said.

A documentary produced by his branch of EWTN, a worldwide Catholic television network, shows the dichotomy of the horror of war and the faith that the future will be better.

The film has been a year in the making and includes comments from witnesses who had lived in occupied territories in Kyiv that since have been freed, places around the country where refugees are finding help, the overall response to the war and how people are turning to faith, Zelinskyi said.

“We believe that God is with us in this moment, in this situation, and we try to do something good because this is our life, our freedom, our dignity,” he said.

Colorado Springs residents can view the documentary, “Light with Us,” while Zelinskyi is in town next week.

He, along with Bishop Vitaly Skomarovskyi of Lutsk, and a nun, Sister Kamila Frydryszewska, co-director of the House of Hope for Single Mothers and Children, will participate in events and activities through Colorado Springs-based Catholic Outreach to Neighbors in Ukraine.

The three spiritual leaders will appear at a 9 a.m. public Mass on Aug. 27 at Holy Apostles, 4925 N. Carefree Circle, followed by a reception that’s open to all. The event also will celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day, which is marked annually in August as the main state holiday commemorating its Declaration of Independence of 1991.

The religious guests also will attend a Respect Life Apostolate fundraiser, where Frydryszewska will speak about the home for single mothers, which now houses up to 30 families who are war refugees.

Other churches have been asked to host the guests, to raise awareness of the organization’s fundraiser, Restoring Identity, Self-Respect and Esteem in the Ukrainian People, or RISE-UP Campaign, during their stay, from Wednesday to Sept. 5.

Catholic Outreach to Neighbors in Ukraine was founded in 1995 by Skomarovskyi through the church he led at the time, Annunciation Parish in Sumy, Ukraine, and the Rev. Paul Wicker, the late pastor of Holy Apostles Catholic Church in Colorado Springs.

The all-volunteer ministry funnels about $130,000 annually from local donors to assist Ukrainians, said Ken Rackers, vice president of the organization.

Skomarovskyi haphazardly stumbled into Holy Apostles nearly 30 years ago as a young Ukrainian priest visiting here and asked Wicker to “come and see” how the people in his homeland needed help. Wicker went, Rackers said, and the longtime partnership began. Wicker died in 2021, but the nonprofit organization continues to support efforts in Ukraine.

The conflict with Russia originated in Ukraine in 2014 and resurged in February 2022. Until then, local contributions funded operations of the House of Hope and construction for churches rebuilding in the former communist country, Rackers said.

Since last year’s invasion, he said the organization’s focus has shifted to humanitarian aid for refugees and war victims, providing displaced Ukrainians with food, offering shelter, obtaining medicine and distributing toiletries.

“The Catholic church helps all comers — anybody who shows up in need,” Rackers said.

The day before the phone conversation with the priest from ETWN in Ukraine and the bishop of Lutsk, 100 people were hurt during a bombing in Kyiv, where ETWN has its offices, and many people died, Zelinskyi said.

Drones are being programmed for strikes, along with cruise and ballistic missiles, Rackers said.

“Refugees are spread throughout the country,” he said. “People are still nervous.”

People’s lives are changed in seconds, Skomarovskyi said through an interpreter, with homes and businesses destroyed and many deaths of men, women and children.

“You never know if you’ll wake up and morning will come,” he said. “For our people to know we are not alone is most important.”

Both priests had to obtain special permission from the Ukrainian government to come to the United States, Rackers said. Under Ukraine’s martial law, men ages 18 to 60 who are deemed fit for combat are restricted from leaving the country, with certain exceptions.

EWTN continues to broadcast programs, live events and activities of churches, Zelinskyi said.

People are preparing for another harsh winter, he said, because last year Russians directed artillery fire to electric plants and water facilities, and the same is expected again.

“Every Ukrainian I spoke to is determined and resolute that they will defeat and expel the Russians from all of Ukraine,” Rackers said. “This attack by Russians has consolidated the Ukrainians’ feelings of patriotism and helped firm up the concept of an independent Ukrainian nation.”

Zelinskyi asks Americans for prayers.

“God is not just with some people, God is with everybody,” he said. “Every day we have prayer in our churches and our chapels and we pray for the Russians, especially for conversions of people who attacked us.

“Our goal is not to say that God is with us but that he’s not with other people. God is with everybody and loves everybody. But God doesn’t love the evil deeds we do.”

Prayers offer protection, said Skomarovskyi, the bishop.

“We know that someone in the world believes in us and prays with us,” he said. “We can feel this power in our lives.”

For more information on the outreach ministry, go to





The Gazette, Colorado Springs