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Archbishop Welby travels to Ukraine to express solidarity with people ‘going through hell’

05 February 2024

Francis Martin/Church Times

Archbishop Welby on the train from Poland to Ukraine

Archbishop Welby on the train from Poland to Ukraine

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has arrived in Ukraine. “I am here to stand with our sisters and brothers in Christ,” he said on Monday.

Archbishop Welby arrived in Kyiv by overnight train from Warsaw on Monday morning. As the train neared the Ukrainian capital, he told the Church Times that the aim of the visit was “to show that we remember the people caught up in this horrible conflict, and that they are in our prayers and thoughts, as well as those who are in exile in the UK as refugees.

“Coming again to Kyiv, I’m reminded of the vast extent of suffering. [I am] on a train where almost all the Ukrainians are women, because the men are involved in the fighting; and of the suffering, as I look out at the snowy landscape and think of people in trenches on both sides.”

Archbishop Welby is scheduled to spend five days in the country, where he will meet Ukrainian church leaders from various denominations, as well as those who attend the Church of England’s chaplaincy in Kyiv.

“I want to pray with and for them, learn from them, and to say loud and clear that, amid all that is going on in other places, the world will not forget Ukraine.

“It is now almost two full years since that dreadful day of the full-scale Russian invasion — an act of great evil — and we know that the need for support is going to be very long term.

“It was profoundly moving and humbling to meet people here in late-2022, to see first-hand the heroism of people who have been through hell. It has stayed with me, and I felt a deep call to return.”

Iryna, a fellow passenger on the train to Kyiv, was returning to the capital after spending some time in Poland. Life in Kyiv was sometimes scary, she admitted, but not as bad as the situation further east in cities like her hometown, Kharkiv, and Luhansk.

Welcoming foreigners to Ukraine was important, she said. “It is very good when people come to our country to write about what is going on. It helps us because, at the moment, lots of foreigners think the war is not important.

“It’s important for us to continue to talk about this, to tell our stories, to tell what’s going on, and what we need: financial help, equipment for our soldiers,” she said.

Later in the week, Archbishop Welby will visit projects run by charities and non-government organisations. Briefings with politicians and diplomats are also on his agenda.

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