Ukraine fight seems close for these Americans

In Evanston, Illinois, when the notification popped up on his phone Wednesday that Russia was invading Ukraine, Alex Telischak, 42, rushed to turn on the news, then quickly called his parents’ woman. They live in the town of Ternopil, in western Ukraine, and he and his wife feared they would not be able to contact them again for an indefinite period if phone lines or internet service went down.

“It’s emotionally difficult for both parties,” he said. “You don’t say goodbye, but it’s almost like that, because you don’t know when the conversation might continue.”

His wife’s parents are among the 130,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine. In 2017, Russia banned the denomination, whose members believe in nonviolence and refuse to take up arms in times of war; Russia called it an extremist group. Since then, some 1,700 homes of Witnesses in Russia have been raided and about 320 Witnesses imprisoned, including a crackdown in Crimea, according to denominational statistics. Mr. Telischak did not dare to guess what might happen in Ukraine.

The couple tried not to watch the news too much to avoid getting too upset, he said. When it was time to sleep, they kept looking at Viber, the messaging app they use to communicate with their family. “You go to bed, you check. You wake up, you check,” he said. “We told them, ‘Anything, you text, you call, whatever the time. “”

On Thursday afternoon, his wife received a message that an air raid siren had gone off and her parents had fled their old concrete building. Outside, a member of their congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses drove by and piled them into his car. Men from their congregation had been watching them and others for weeks, making sure everyone had a go-bag, flashlights, water and a map.

If the parents had to leave the country as refugees, Mr. Telischak trusted other Witnesses to take them in. “Having a community or religion without borders is a huge comfort to us,” he said.

He found comfort in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus told his disciples not to fear when there were wars and rumors of wars, when nation rose against nation.

“We also understand that the Bible foretells a time when all this will pass away, when there will be no more of these wars, there will be no more of these strife between nations, and enmity and strife,” he said. he says. “The disciples didn’t ask because they wanted to know when things were going to get really bad. They wanted to know, when was the fix, when was the fix coming.

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