Local church to hold service today, which is the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion
Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series of News-Press articles examining the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Future stories will cover topics such as efforts by Santa Barbara-based ShelterBox USA and Goleta-based Direct Relief, which have gone to Ukraine to provide help.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A 7 p.m. prayer service will be held tonight at the First Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church of Santa Barbara, 150 Pebble Hill Drive.
And at noon Saturday, a rally in honor of Ukraine will take place, rain or shine, at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St. Santa Barbara. World Dance for Humanity will host the rally.
The remembrance of Ukraine comes as the nation and its people continue to suffer from the relentless attacks by Russia.
“It is a sad day for us,” Pastor Mikhail Smiyun told the News-Press. “We have set up all-day prayer and fasting today in addition to tonight’s prayer service.
“We request our Lord and ask Him all year, but tonight is a special ask to stop the war because a lot of people have died or been killed,” Pastor Smiyun said. “There is a lot of sadness and heartbreak; every day we receive a lot of hard news. The fighting is continuous.
“I believe that God has settled the hearts of many nations to help Ukraine with military aid and aid for refugees,” he said. “That is a big help for the Ukrainian people. I really don’t know still, even now why it has happened and why people are trying to kill people. For what reason, nobody knows. Even now, one year later, nobody knows.
“Satan wants to ‘steal, kill and destroy’ and those who follow him do the same. It’s heartbreaking; all year we try to help as much as we can. We pray all the time,” said Pastor Smiyun.
“We want to stop the war ,” he said. “That is our goal and probably the goal for everyone. I believe that God has settled hearts to help Ukraine. We have seen nations’ leaders come together and help Ukraine with military aid.”
Pastor Smiyun spoke about the progress made in the last year.
“It is better right now because people around the world are helping a lot. Ukraine cannot stand alone and fight. A lot of countries are helping.
“Right now, it is a much better situation than a year ago,” he said.
“I always compare this to David and Goliath: a country with a population of 44 million vs. a country with a population of 157 million.”
“In eastern Ukraine, 36 houses of prayer have been destroyed and close to 400 churches closed,” Pastor Smiyun said. “They are talking about religious freedom, but why are they closing churches and houses of prayer? Additionally, 70% of Christians from eastern Ukraine are refugees.”
The News-Press asked Pastor Smiyun about how the community can show support. “First prayer support — we need more prayers. That is the biggest thing. We need to stop this war,” Pastor Smiyun said. “We also need financial support to help refugees and wounded soldiers.
“We have a special program to help wounded soldiers. Donated funds go to help refugees with food, clothing and housing, and to help wounded soldiers with food and medication,” he said.
“We have had a lot of support from the World Dance for Humanity. This organization helped the church, especially with the support of the refugees and wounded soldiers.
“Refugees are everywhere,” he said. “Outside of Ukraine, it is better for them. Refugees in western Ukraine are struggling and need support. We are helping as much as we can through the church. Churches in Ukraine are helping as much as they can with food and housing. They still need our support and we try to do as much as we can.”
As part of a fundraising partnership, the church has raised more than $200,000 for refugees, the pastor said.
“One year later Ukrainians are still fighting for freedom, families, and their future,” Pastor Smiyun said. “They are fighting not only for Ukraine but also for Poland, Romania and other countries in eastern Europe.”