‘Keep praying’: Trumbull priest, Ukraine native worries for his home

Photo of Amanda Cuda

TRUMBULL — When Rev. Hryhoriy Lozinskyy watches or reads coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he is filled with all of the same dread, fear and sadness as so many others who are watching the human suffering.

But for Lozinskyy, a parish priest and administrator at St. John The Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Trumbull, the war has a deeper relevance and immediacy. The 35-year-old is a native of Ukraine, who first came to this country four years ago and has been at St. John since November, 2020.

Much of his family, including his parents, still lives in Ukraine.

“I call them every day,” he said. “Now, in these days, I wake up and at least text them right away to see if they are OK.”

Thankfully, he said, his parents are in Uzhhorod — a city in Western Ukraine that Lozinskyy said is one of the safer places to be. It’s not far from where Lozinskyy grew up, in Mukachevo.

Growing up, he said, his life in the Ukraine was relatively peaceful.

“It was just a normal life,” he said. “It was just routine.”

That routine was shattered Feb. 24 when Russia launched its military invasion of Ukraine, one of its neighboring countries. Lozinkyy, like so many others, watched over the following days as bombs fell and Ukrainian citizens fought for their lives and their independence.

“You feel pity for them,” Lozinskyy said. “So many of them are going into bomb shelter. It’s heartbreaking.”

These are days that he feared would come, but prayed would never arrive.

“We hoped this would not happen,” he said. “We thought some attacks would happen, but we could not have imagined (this). You hope every day that there will be a change. With your mind, and your heart, you are there. ”

Though his parents are safe, he worries for some of the other members of his family, including an aunt who is in Kherson, which was the first Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces. Lozinskyy said he has heard his aunt is OK, but “Kherson is not the best right now.”

Like many people here, he said, he can feel helpless hearing about and seeing the attacks happening so far away. But he’s using his position as a priest to do whatever he can.

“We pray for them,” he said. “I ask people in the congregation to pray for them.”

But he’s doing more than praying. Lozinskyy is taking up collections in his church to send to organizations helping Ukrainians, including the Eparchy of Passaic in New Jersey — the diocese where he was before coming to Connecticut. The diocese is sending money to its bishop in Eastern Europe, who is reportedly helping refugees in the area.

And, of course, Lozinskyy stays in touch with his family members, whom he knows are putting on a brave face to some degree. “They say they are safe,” he said of his parents. “Of course, they don’t want (me) to be worried.”

Not worrying is impossible, he said.

“I can say it’s brought death and destruction,” Lozinskyy said of the invasion. “Civilian buildings have been taken. I think the lesson or message we can take from this is we need to appreciate the basic things we have here — freedom, all the food you want.”

He’s also grateful for the support of his congregation and others he’s come into contact with here.

“Keep praying for the Ukraine,” he said. “Keep praying.”

Lozinskyy said those looking for ways to help can call the church at 203-377-5967.