«We mustn’t revenge, only fight for Ukraine,» – Father about his son’s death in the war

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«Russia’s aim in this war is to deprive us of our future,» – said Father Mykhailo Dymyd.

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The death of Artemiy Dymyd, a graduate of Ukrainian Catholic University, deeply affected many people in Ukraine. Millions of social media users watched the video of his mother, icon painter Ivanka Krypyakevych-Dymyd, singing him the last lullaby. We spoke with Artemiy’s father, priest and academician Mykhailo Dymyd, about the intention to recreate his son’s combat path, explore the inner world of Ukrainian soldiers, and the slave-like post-Soviet consciousness, which is still present in a part of Ukrainians.

The investigation of the circumstances of Artemiy’s death

In the near future, I would like to go to the front and visit the place of Artemiy’s service and death, because a lot remains behind the scenes. I’d have to travel with a documentarian and a journalist to document this kind of investigation. This is important in order to preserve the heritage of the modern generation’s heroism so that the history of the current Ukrainian struggle is imprinted in the subconscious of the nation.

Funeral of Artemiy Dymyd. From right to left in a row are Fr. Bohdan Prakh, Ms. Lesya Krypyakevych-Tsehelska, Emilia Dymyd, Magdalena Dymyd, Dmytro Dymyd, Klymentia Dymyd, Klymentia’s husband Kostyantyn Rybalko, Ivanka Krypyakevych-Dymyd, Fr. Mykhailo Dymyd

Almost everywhere, Donbas was stated as his place of death, but the documents I received at the military commissariat evidenced that he died in the village of Bila Krynytsia, Mykolaiv region. This shows how little we really know about him. Recently, observing Artemiy’s items, Ivanka found a chevron, and we realized that he liberated Mariupol in 2014. Artemiy wasn’t a platoon commander, but as the stories told, he was so well versed in what was happening around that he actually performed the commander’s duties.

Read also: Ukrainian history through the lives of two families. Memories of Lesia Krypyakevych

I would like to hear some more details and episodes of his service from his comrades. We learned the lion’s share of unknown pages in Artemiy’s biography precisely from his friends after the burial. Therefore, it’s interesting and vital for me to learn about the struggle and service of not only Artemiy but the entire group of defenders to which he belonged. Let this experience be alive, be an example for someone, so that their possible mistakes are not repeated.

The Dymyd family during the burial of their son Artemiy Dymyd

I also want to explore the consciousness of our soldiers, what they think about death and whether they are afraid of it. For me personally, it’s crucial to learn the history of their struggle, what our soldiers dream about, and what they live by. They are very different: there are those who read, write poems, and there are those who simply drink. I’d wish to get to know them better because they are living heroes who should be honoured now rather than after their departure to heaven. It’s interesting to learn how the death of «Kurka» [Artemiy’s nom de guerre] affected friends and what it can bring in the future, because Russia’s goal in this war is to steal it from us.

The virtues of the Ukrainian people

Europe offers us European values. But in order for those values ​​to last and gain worth, Christian virtues are needed. The Ukrainian people live by them, and today, we’re making a contribution to strengthening the fund of European values.

There is a «map of values» to define the ideological core of a nation, and we move along it depending on how a person perceives the sacrifice in this war. You can curse the aggressor, make a god of yourself, see the war as payback for the past. Or, you can see the sacrifice as liberation from your addictions, an opportunity for freedom, democracy and good neighbourliness.

Dymyd family

At Artemiy’s funeral, an officer approached me and said: «We’ll take revenge, we’ll destroy Russia!» He said a lot of negativity. I replied that we should fight for the liberation of Ukraine, and let Russia be alone. Let’s hope that it will find the possibility of returning to democratic principles itself. He didn’t understand me and was even confused, it was clear that he did not expect to hear such words from a father who lost his son.

But I believe that we as a nation have taken a serious step forward. We are undeniably winning on the spiritual front of this war, and this is one of our undeniable advantages. I have no other explanation for why we hold up so well, why we have such high standards. Something else is at work here.

Read also: «Every state consolidated its independence in war,» – Ihor Yukhnovskyi

Father Mykhailo Dymyd at the «Plast» scouting camp

For me, as a Christian, it’s very important to understand and see how many people are praying. Even in this apocalypse, there is a light of hope. My friends from abroad say that «Prayers carry Ukraine.»

The post-Soviet slave consciousness

Unfortunately, due to various historical reasons, the post-Soviet slave consciousness is a feature of many Ukrainians. This is the type of person that Russian culture cultivated. Freedom and dignity have completely different outlines, and on that level, the struggle continues. This is the problem of the nation’s growth. Over the past 30 years, the Ukrainian people have made great strides forward in the matter of their creativity, but a whole stratum of people who did not join this trend still remains. These are people who decided to stay in the last century.

Naturally, they would have to die, and their children would already think freely. However, we are not wholly monolithic because of those who still exist in the slave paradigm. Such people are «poisoning» the organism of the state and society. However, the war cleanses our ranks of the slave mentality. Now, it’s very clear who is on which side of the barricade, what a huge number of those who are nothing.

Read also: «We have to say goodbye to disgusting and stinking Soviet past,» – historian Andrii Pavlyshyn

Fathers Mykhailo Dymyd and Andrii Zelinskyi during the Revolution of Dignity on Independence Square, Kyiv, 2014

They exist in every nation, every society and century. You need to attract them to yourself by your own example and change them for the better. Words are powerless here, only education can help. And here, Artemiy is an example of how to live, and his heroic death emphasized this.

Russian identity and the Christianisation of Russia

Father Mykhailo Dymyd and Bishop Borys Gudziak, members of the «Plast» scouting unit «Crusaders» 

Time, faith and a number of other factors play an important role in the formation of identity. Unfortunately, Russians currently have «suyeverie» [«superstition» in Russian] in their heads: paganism is mixed with «victory obsession», the Soviet Union, and Orthodoxy. We could Christianise them if they were pagans, but «suyeverie» is very difficult to purify. It’s easier to work with a non-believer for whom the Word will be Truth and will be transformed into action. At the same time, a superstitious person is used to double standards, is constantly guided by them. I think that Ukraine has its own interest in the Russian people rising from that darkness and becoming nobler, but how exactly – it’s not our current problem. Now, we must take care to go deep and find strength, unity and direction for the future. If we manage to do this for ourselves, we’ll be able to help our neighbours as well.

​​Read also: «Russia acts as a religious sect, or why we shouldn’t think about good Russians»

About Russian culture

Many literary critics are now exposing numerous dark pages in Russian literature. Almost every Russian writer approves of the typical behaviour of an ordinary Russian soldier: a rapist, a murderer, or a thief. But I think that this reason is not exclusive to Russian literature. Both light and dark can be extracted from the same culture in different eras. Cultural assets in different eras are drawn from the positive and give impetus to the development of politics, economy, and relationships with other peoples. Instead, there are eras when negative energies can be drawn from the same culture that promote isolationism, chauvinism, hatred of enemies, and approval of aggression.

That’s exactly why, in my opinion, this is not only a question of Russian culture: it’s relevant to all cultures. But now, this negativity manifests itself in Russian culture and «feeds» not only Putin, not only the Russian General Staff, the generals, but also the entire cultural establishment of Russia. They all draw from that negativity. Anyone who wants to draw something positive from Russian culture will not be accepted now, he will be persecuted and ridiculed.

Fathers August Chumakov and Mykhailo Dymyd during the Liturgy on the Kinburn spit, Mykolaiv Region

About statements that Ukraine should cede its territory

There is no simple answer to this. When discussing such issues with Europeans, I confront them, provide analogies so that they understand that their statements are absurd. For example: why do the Spaniards not grant independence to the Basques? Why is Alsace now France, why not give the region back to the Germans it once belonged to?

Instead, I answer to myself that I would concede territorially if this were the point after which everything would be over for three to five centuries. But this is not the Russian standard. I would be ready for such a decision if it could ensure lasting peace and tranquillity, saving thousands of lives. Even the divided European regions are now developing well and the rights of indigenous peoples are clearly preserved. However, it does not work with Russia. Here, historical experience indicates that it’s impossible, that we must fight to the end.

Read also: Why don’t we in Ukraine understand the West and vice versa?

Father Mykhailo Dymyd on Cross Sunday, Lviv, March 2018

We can see a clear difference between the Eastern and Western European states because the Eastern ones felt very well what it means to be occupied by the USSR. Now their reaction to the war in Ukraine and their willingness to make a sacrifice is different from that of Western countries. I think there must be something else here, apart from the economy, because these are not only economic interests that govern the opinion of many Hungarians or Germans. However, this is all being cleared now, and a lot of light is being shed on all areas of life, so our sacrifices are not in vain.

We already have to consider what the directions of the Ukrainian state’s thinking, politics, economy, and culture will be. To think about what we will do with our post-war energy when we get out of this, in which directions we will lead Ukraine, who will be our leaders at that moment.

Father Mykhailo Dymyd and Ivanka Krypyakevych-Dymyd during the burial of Artemiy Dymyd

We have many vivid examples of post-war countries, the development of which depended on the organization and determined the future order: whether the country developed or became isolated and eventually fell into poverty.

Europe is afraid of uncertainty and change. There, they are used to schemes that are now successfully falling apart, but new ones are appearing instead. They are afraid of that, because then it will be necessary to rethink relations, the economy, the balance of power, etc. But it’s also worth saying that Europe reacted very well in the matter of protecting Ukraine. Earlier, it seemed unthinkable. There is unanimity in defense of Ukraine and condemnation of Russia’s actions. The fact that there will be many discussions and contradictions is normal, this is the history of the EU. But it is also true that they eventually reach a consensus that leads to some action.

Sashko Monastyrskyi, Roman Tyshchenko-Lamanskyi

Translated by Vitalii Holich

Full or partial republication of the text without the written consent of the editors is prohibited and considered a violation of copyright

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