Local Ukrainian priest 'cautiously optimistic' about political changes

2014-02-24T18:00:00Z 2014-03-05T21:40:54Z Local Ukrainian priest 'cautiously optimistic' about political changesLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

MUNSTER | The Rev. Yaroslav Mendyuk keeps a close eye on news from Ukraine and knows all too well of the struggles of those fighting for peace there.

Mendyuk, pastor of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church in Munster, went home to Ukraine in December with other Ukrainian Catholic priests from Chicago "to support our people."

Mendyuk and the Chicago priests were in central square in Kiev on Dec. 12 as protesters were under attack from police.

"We were live shields between the soldiers and the barricades," Mendyuk said. "We held the soldiers for nine hours."

Last week, about 80 protesters were killed in the same square. President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kiev after a political uprising, is now wanted on a warrant for crimes stemming from the fatal clashes between pro-European and pro-Russian groups. 

Mendyuk said recent images showing the lavish furnishings at the presidential palace are "just nonsense."

"His people are suffering," he said.

Mendyuk was born in Ukraine and came to the United States in 1997. His brothers and mother remain in Ukraine.

Mendyuk spoke to his mother Monday who has been watching the news intently. Mendyuk said his family in Ukraine "are excited and prayerful" about the change in its government.

"I just watched the latest news from Ukraine on the Internet," Mendyuk said. "People are sending messages to parliament on what they want changed and parliament is listening."

Mendyuk said Ukrainians are not celebrating a victory just yet.

"We're all still very cautiously optimistic," he said. "The parliament is corrupted from top to bottom. They have to change everything and people want real action. They want to make public all of the political activity of each member of parliament, 10 to 15 years back in their careers, to see which were lawful and which were not."

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