Testimony Of A Ukrainian Oblate Military Chaplain

Based on materials by Irina Rudyk-Malaya, originally published on barnews.city

During the war, Ukrainians have turned to God in prayer. In addition, almost all parishes, regardless of their religious denomination – Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant – collect aid for the military and systematically bring it to the front. But just as important, if not even more so, is the mission of the priests themselves who travel to reach the Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukraine wants to officially introduce the position of ‘military chaplain’ soon, but in the meantime this mission is carried out by priests who feel called to voluntarily stand alongside the military in places of combat operations. One such priest is Fr. Vadim Dorosh, O.M.I. who for several years has been systematically travelling to the frontline and serving the soldiers.

Father Vadim has been a military Chaplain since 2014. He was born and raised in the city of Bar (Ukraine). He was previously a member of the Army. He first did compulsory service and then served in the Army under contract. There he underwent a process of conversion and entered the Oblate pre-novitiate in Obukhiv.

Now as a priest he lives and serves in the community of Tyvriv in the Vinnitsa region. In addition to serving at the Oblate shrine in Tyvriv, he is responsible for youth in that parish and also for the Memorial Museum of the Ukrainian Martyrs of the 20th century. In the Delegation of Ukraine he is responsible for vocations and meetings of altar servers, as well as for the group of Friends of the Missionaries.

Father Vadim recounts: “When the war started in 2014, I was a scholastic in Poland, where I helped displaced people and migrants from Ukraine. After finishing the seminary, I returned to Ukraine and was ordained a priest in Bar (Ukraine). Then I also started to travel as a volunteer to the Donetsk region, where I worked with the Christian Relief Service, which has about 20 different corps, in particular the War Chaplain Corps. In 2020, the founder of this service, Andriy Olenchyk, offered me the opportunity to become a military Chaplain and I accepted.

The mission of a chaplain is, first and foremost, to be among the military and to represent them in prayer with and for them. In addition, it involves both talking to them and confessing to them…. In other words, we are a witness of Jesus Christ in their midst so that the military understands that God is with them.”

For three years now, Fr. Vadim has been visiting Ukrainian soldiers on a regular basis, spending two to three weeks with them. When asked if it is safe, he replies that there is no completely safe place now: “The chaplain is not usually on the front line, although these situations do occur. I have had to be in trenches and barricades.”

A chaplain travels to different places where there is fighting. He says there are several factors that determine where he will go: “In the East, I went to a specific place because of the Christian Relief Service. The ministry there was both military and civilian. We go to the south mainly because of the need for recruits from Vinnitsa.”

Although the soldiers are of different religions, the military chaplains, regardless of their denomination, give their blessing to all. The same goes for the sacrament of confession: “Blessing for all. As for the sacraments, in cases of emergency, for example, during war, when there is a threat to life, the chaplain can confess any Christian, regardless of his or her denominational affiliation.”

But Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline need to talk. Father Vadim recounts what he remembers most about his work as a chaplain:

“Most of the time, the servicemen want to talk. We talk a lot. I remember one soldier sat next to me and talked for almost three hours while I listened. Then he thanked me, I blessed him and he left. Another huge soldier, about six feet tall and strongly built, asked for confession. It turned out that the last time he had gone to confession was more than 20 years ago. I thought then that, indeed, since such a big and strong warrior kneels down and needs God, we chaplains are needed, that God is really at work and that we are not helpless.

On one occasion a unit commander simply ‘unburdened his heart.’ He needed to be heard. And another important moment was personally when a military man came up and said: ‘You gave us medallions of the Virgin Mary, but there were not enough for everyone. Moments like this make it clear that for the military it is really important to feel God’s presence close to them.’”