Meet the young Ukrainian woman leading a revolution of prayer

3 mins read
Uliana Zhuravchak
Uliana Zhuravchak stops at Our Lady of Fátima Shrine in Fátima, Portugal on her way to WYD Lisbon 2023 with a big group of Ukrainian Catholics. (Photo by: Ksenia Kormylo)

Uliana Zhuravchak left her hometown of Skhidnytsia, Ukraine, years ago, but even then, the war was already starting. She arrived in Krakow, Poland, in 2015 to serve on the World Youth Day organizing committee. She continues to live and work in Krakow, where she serves as an expert on Ukraine for the Knights of Columbus. Zhuravchak helps facilitate communication as a translator and builds relationships for the Knights with local Ukrainian humanitarian and religious groups.

As the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches, Uliana was inspired to write a novena to turn the world’s eyes to what she has witnessed. She told Our Sunday Visitor, “When the idea for distributing a novena came up, I immediately felt that I had something that I wanted to share.” Beginning today, Catholics throughout the world can join in the initiative of prayer, begging the Lord to bring healing and peace to war-torn Ukraine.

But first, meet Uliana, the inspiring Ukrainian Greek Catholic who wants to lead a revolution of prayer.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Our Sunday Visitor: Uliana, what was it like for you to make the decision to leave Ukraine?

Zhuravchak: It was very difficult. At the time I made my decision, the war had already started. Remember that Russia attacked Eastern Ukraine in 2014. It was difficult to leave because I wanted to be among my own people. When I was making the decision to move to Poland, I started to cry because I was torn. I didn’t want to abandon my home.

In the end, I decided that I could serve as a kind of diplomat of culture and that I could actually be here working in Poland and representing Ukraine to the world. I always entrusted my decisions to God’s providence. I didn’t want to leave. But, I entrust my life to God, and I hope someday to return to Ukraine. For now, God is still keeping me here, in Poland.

Our Sunday Visitor: Where does your hope come from? How are you able to persevere, to continue to advocate for and serve Ukrainians still in Ukraine and refugees?

Zhuravchak: I deeply trust that God is present among us, even in the middle of the suffering that we experience. I will also say that the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist allow me to share with our Lord this suffering that I experience, that we experience.

From left, Szymon Czyszek, Uliana Zhuravchak, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, Olena Bedriy, Ukrainian Project Manager from Lviv and Ukraine State Deputy Youriy Maletskiy. Photo was taken during the Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly’s visit to Ukraine. Lviv, Ukraine, December 6, 2022. (Photo by: Tamino Petelinšek)

The other source of my hope is to see the perseverance of my Ukrainian countrymen, their perseverance and courage and the ability to carry each other’s burdens despite not knowing how long it will take.

And the last thing I want to mention is the witness of so many people of goodwill in support of the Ukrainian people. When I think about my daily work with the Knights of Columbus, I see their dedication and their hope. Even though they are tired, they still come up with many creative ways to continue to support people in need. There is really this sense of dedication to the cause by the Knights from Ukraine and Poland, and they are a great inspiration for me. It is important to continue to support Ukraine despite the challenges and difficulties.

Our Sunday Visitor: Tell us about the novena you wrote. What does it mean for you? What are your hopes for those who pray it?

Zhuravchak: When the idea for distributing a novena came up, I immediately felt that I had something that I wanted to share, something that I wanted to say. You can say that this is really like a fruit that was growing and increasing within me for the last two years as I worked with the Knights of Columbus. There have been times when it has been difficult for me to pray, but the moment I started writing the novena, it was like a waterfall.

I was able to write very quickly. It was like something opened up inside me. Every sentence that I was writing really came from my bleeding heart. I wanted to show through every word all the stories of the people that I knew I kept in my heart.

I’m a person with faith. I see this tremendous need for prayer, and I lead my life with prayer. I see this great need to embrace all these wounds that people have. All this brokenness that could be and should be lifted up to our Lord in prayer.

Our Sunday Visitor: Do you have a message for young Catholics in the U.S.?

Zhuravchak: Remember that young people like you are also in Ukraine. Young people in both America and Ukraine need to support each other. The young people of Ukraine need this support and solidarity from their fellow young Americans.

Two years ago, so many young Ukrainians had to face dramatic choices. These were choices that nobody wanted to make but were forced to make. That’s why it is so important to ask young Americans for the presence and the heart that they can offer to the young people of Ukraine.

I also want to thank everyone for their care and support. I was at World Youth Day in Lisbon, and there were so many young people from other countries, including from the United States, who came to us to encourage us and show solidarity. And so I want to thank them for keeping us in their hearts.

Father Patrick Briscoe

Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, is a Dominican friar and the editor of Our Sunday Visitor. Along with his Dominican brothers, he is host of the podcast Godsplaining and a co-author of "Saint Dominic’s Way of Life: A Path to Knowing and Loving God." He is also the author of the OSV seasonal devotional, "My Daily Visitor."