NEW YORK – Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, Sister Lucia Murashko has remained in Zaporizhzhia, a Ukrainian city about 40 miles from the frontlines. Facing multiple opportunities, and even encouragement to leave, she said she stayed to respond to what God told her to do.

“We always try to respond to what God wants us to do,” Murashko told Crux. “My life was never in more challenging times than it has been during these two years, but if you do something you have a feeling that you did not give up, and when this feeling is very strong in you, you have to do something good.”

Murashko is a part of the Order of St. Basil the Great. Including Murashko, there are currently three Basilians who live in Zaporizhzhia. Throughout the entirety of the war, they have responded to the needs of those around them and on the front lines.

Murashko explained that at the start of the war they used their car to bring people to the train station so they could flee west. Once the city largely emptied, they helped anyone who couldn’t leave the city get food, water, and any other humanitarian resources they needed.

By summer 2022 people began to return to the city, volunteer organizations blossomed, and stores restocked. However, Murashko said a great need remains to this day. Their efforts have evolved into aiding the internally displaced, meaning people forced out of their villages near the frontlines of the war who either have nowhere else to go, or don’t want to travel further away than Zaporizhzhia because of a hope they have that someday they’ll be able to return home.

They’ve also aided the soldiers both on the front lines and in the hospitals.

“We stay here and every day we ask God if you need us to be here, what can we do,” Murashko said.

For the Basilians’ efforts, they were recently awarded the Lumen Christi Award from Catholic Extension, which is the organization’s highest honor given annually to “people who radiate and reveal the light of Christ present in the communities where they serve.” Murashko said in addition to recognition of their work, the award is “a great sign of solidarity” at a very important time.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Murashko said that in two years what was once a mindset of belief and hope held by the Ukrainian people has since been replaced by exhaustion, despair, and an uneasiness about what the future will hold.

What follows is more from Crux’s conversation with Murashko. It has been edited for clarity and length.

Crux: What first comes to mind when you consider that the war has gone on for two years now?

Murashko: It’s been a long two years, and that’s exactly what I feel like. It’s been a long time and we are still in war and the people of Ukraine are exhausted. The soldiers are very tired and I think many of us are in despair, like there is no hope, and particularly now, in the last few weeks even, the Russians are coming closer to the west, to the central of Ukraine, so they are coming closer and closer and it’s scary.

But that’s exactly the time to trust God. We all pray and now I think all of us in Ukraine understand that with human resources, even with weapons and anything we can have, we are not able to go on. We try to win the war with our forces and now it’s time, we see here we did not have any results, and now we turn our eyes again and again to God that’s he’s our only protection and he’s our only hope.

Like when I come here to the United States and when I meet people here I ask them to support us, be with Ukraine, because we are tired and we feel alone, and the horrors of war, it’s really more terrifying now than it was in the beginning.

Why is that? Why is it more terrifying now than in the beginning?

Because the result of our fight was not successful. The Ukrainian forces stopped Russia but we hoped that we would push them back home. In the beginning we had great enthusiasm. We gathered all together. We collected all of our might to stand against the war, to support soldiers, to support people, and now we see how powerless we are and this is more difficult.

We expected in the beginning a few months and the war would finish, that the whole war would not allow this horror to exist, and now we see life continues in many countries. Even in Ukraine in some cities people continue to live like nothing happened, but in Zaporizhzhia we see how difficult it is, how terrifying it is because we see all of the wounded soldiers, the internally displaced people.

Like I said, at first we thought with our forces, with God’s grace, we will win. Now, we see our strength is so little, so only God’s miracle can be. He knows how to decide this, but for us there is no way. Our strategic plans did not help. Ukraine does not have enough firepower.

How has the mindset changed in Ukraine over these two years?

I think Ukraine as a nation is united against the great evil that came to our land, and now we want to fight for freedom because we want to be free people and what we know about Russia is that they are under the influence of propaganda so they cannot say what they are thinking. They are really poor people because if they are Christians, if they are good people they suffer a lot because they are not free to express what they think, they are not free to do what they want to do.

Now we understand who we are. We want to live in a free country without propaganda from Russia. We want to live in our land and work and raise children and live in a peaceful world.

What does Ukraine need now?

I think our enemies came to us, to our city, to our country, with a sword to kill us, and I think we need a sword to fight back, but in Ukraine there are not enough weapons. I’m a sister, I do not trust in weapons, but I know what our soldiers say. They do not have weapons to survive against tanks and artillery fire, so they have to hide in foxholes. They stay there just to be alive.

We need weapons. The only way we can stop them is with weapons. Jesus says if you come with your weapons you will die because of weapons, but now Ukraine does not have such a thing, so we hope the other countries will listen to our request and will help us. It’s not to kill. We need weapons to protect life, otherwise they are coming closer.

And, of course, we need prayer. God’s miracle.

Follow John Lavenburg on X: @johnlavenburg