Son’s death in Ukraine leads father to new hope in the Resurrection

3 mins read
Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia pauses as his friend Ukrainian Father Mykhailo Dymyd speaks during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington March 14, 2023. Father Dymyd's son, Artem, died in mortar fire near Donetsk, Ukraine, June 18, 2022. (OSV News photo/Bob Roller)

(OSV News) — On a bright summer’s day two years ago, Ukrainian Catholic priest Father Mykhailo Dymyd entered the sacristy of a Lviv church and hailed his fellow priests with a familiar greeting — “Khrystos voskres,” meaning “Christ is risen.”

But rather than replying with the customary “Voistinu voskres” (“He is risen indeed”), the clergymen — some married, some celibate, as is normative in Eastern Catholic churches — stared in stunned silence.

A painful revelation

“I asked them, ‘Why don’t you respond?'” Father Dymyd said, speaking to OSV News during a recent visit to Philadelphia. “And I repeated the greeting.”

Slowly, his fellow priests completed the phrase, affirming Christ’s triumph over sin and death — a victory Father Dymyd and his wife, renowned Ukrainian iconographer and artist Ivanka Krypyakevych-Dymyd, were clinging to more tightly than ever: They had come to Lviv’s Garrison Church of SS. Peter and Paul to bury their son, Artem, who had been slain while defending Ukraine from Russian invaders.

The 27-year-old Ukrainian soldier, a brilliant and adventurous young man, had been killed by a Russian mortar round while launching a drone during a June 2022 battle in Ukraine’s southern region of Mykolaiv and Kherson. The blast instantly killed a fellow soldier; Artem died of his wounds en route to the hospital.

A life of courage and determination

“Kurka” (a childhood nickname meaning “chicken”) was born on July 4, when the U.S. celebrates its Independence Day. From his earliest years, he was known for his energetic, inquisitive demeanor — and a gaze that sought the world’s horizons, while remaining focused on his beloved homeland.

During Ukraine’s 2013-2014 Maidan movement — which saw the populace reject the pro-Kremlin government of the time and decisively reorient the nation toward the European Union — Artem witnessed the Feb. 20, 2014 killings of protestors. Weeks later, he traveled to Crimea to support pro-Ukrainian forces amid Russia’s illegal annexation, and eventually joined the Azov and Harpoon battalions.

“You’re a warrior when you fight,” he said in a 2014 interview. “The one who is thrown to the ground but rises again to go on, fight to the end, even if to no avail.”

That steadfast determination ran in his blood: One of his great-grandfathers, priest and violinist Artem Tsehelsky, had spent seven years exiled in Siberia under Soviet rule. His other great-grandfather, historian Ivan Krypiakevych, also had suffered Soviet persecution in his career. Father Dymyd — the first rector of Lviv Theological Academy, now Ukrainian Catholic University, from which Artem had graduated — was a chaplain of the Maidan.

An avid motorcyclist and parachute jumper, Artem traveled to more than 50 countries, and was helping to develop the Ukrainian clothing brand Aviatsia Halychyny when Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. In Brazil at the time (where he parachuted from Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue), he immediately flew back to his homeland from the U.S., even wearing a bulletproof vest and tactical helmet on the plane to save baggage fees. Upon landing, he headed for the front lines as quickly as possible.

A final farewell

At the funeral, Krypyakevych-Dymyd sang her son a final lullaby. Artem was laid to rest in the military cemetery not far from the church. The university created a scholarship in his honor.

In the two years since then, Father Dymyd said he and his family have gone “from theory to practice” in their understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection.

With the loss of their son, Father Dymyd and his family had “a death in our heart, in our family, in our body and yes, in our minds” — but “what to make of that death was the question,” he said.

Living the Resurrection

“When you are a Christian, you try to take being a follower of Jesus seriously,” he explained. “And you believe the Resurrection is not a fact of only one moment in history, but it comes at every time in your life.”

Father Dymyd said he had received “a gift from God” to be “the first in my family” to grasp what Christ’s resurrection meant amid Artem’s death.

“I helped my wife, my children and the people around me to open their hearts and to understand this fact,” he told OSV News. “This is not the finishing of a life, this is another step in life.”

A journey of internal growth

Soon, he and his family “adopted a way of ‘internal peregrination, internal growing’ in this way of thinking,” he said.

As part of that journey, in early 2024 Father Dymyd, his wife and one of their daughters, Magdalyna, traveled after several thwarted attempts to Bila Krynytsia (“White Well”), the village where Artem had been killed. There they met some of their son’s surviving comrades — one of whom, Roman Lozynskyi, is now a member of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament — and learned what Artem’s last moments on earth had been like, in what Krypyakevych-Dymyd described in one interview as “a sacred place.”

Father Dymyd told OSV News he experienced a swirl of emotions while in the village.

“I felt the immensity of these territories, and the lethalness of human beings, and the heroism of these people who are fighting against the biggest force — evil,” he said.

Faith and trust in God’s will

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — which continues attacks begun in 2014, and which was declared a genocide in two joint reports from the New Lines Institute and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights — Artem and his fellow soldiers are “making a necessary effort” to defend human life and dignity, sacrificing themselves for a greater good amid Russia’s atrocities, said Father Dymyd.

And the result ultimately depends “not on us, but on God,” he added.

“We will do what we need to do, what we can do,” said Father Dymyd. “But as we say in the Our Father, ‘Your will be done.'”

Gina Christian

Gina Christian is a National Reporter for OSV News.