Ukrainian Okies Show Resilience In Face Of Continued Conflict
(Featured photo: Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Oklahoma – Photo by Ashton Hare)
Many people in Oklahoma are unaware that just outside of Oklahoma City is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Being so far away from their home country, it isn’t uncommon for people to not know that a Ukrainian church found its way to Oklahoma, of all places.
However, in Jones, a small congregation meets to honor their religion.
As Russia pushes to invade the country, they do so in terrible and perverse ways.
According to CNN, “the United States has ‘clear evidence’ that Russian forces have ‘deliberately and intentionally targeted civilian infrastructure, hospitals, [and] places of shelter.’”
Russia isn’t just going after Ukraine’s armies, but its people as well. Thus far, over 1,000 Ukrainian civilians have perished in the conflict and three million have fled the country, many of whom have links to those in Jones. Putin, the leader of Russia and the man in charge of making these decisions, will likely be faced with war crimes charges if brought to justice.
Despite the terror that has taken over the country of Ukraine, the congregation in Jones has remained strong. Each week they come together to pray together for their people who are surrounded by war.
Many of the church members are first generation immigrants or the descendants of immigrants — whether that move occurred two centuries ago or a couple decades ago.
One member, Maura Baker said, “it’s always war that displaces people ” in regards to how her family left Slovakia in the 1800s and some of the other members’ stories.
The church the Ukrainians originally used burned down in 1949. Luckily, the bank procured land for the configuration to build a new church on, all for free.
The only thing bad about the new church is its location. Father Raphael Moore said “it is not a good location. Nobody comes to Jones.”
Jones is 27 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, which makes traveling to the town a hassle. However, the free land and building of a new church were too good to turn down.
The church itself is quite beautiful.
Incense hangs along the walls, golden portraits of archangels and the Lord decorate the walls, and a bell rises towards the sky.
There are plenty of pews to sit on, but that is uncommon for a Ukrainian church. Baker said, “because you don’t sit in the presence of the Lord.”
“If we are able, that is why there are benches around the edges,” Father Raphael, who has been part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for over 30 years added.
During a service just after the war, the entire group stood for practically the entire time.
The people of the Ukrainian Church are strong people. Throughout these tragic and difficult times, they remain courageous. They are truly powerful people who are living examples to those around them of strength and resilience in the face of extreme uncertainty.