The crisis in Ukraine can seem so overwhelming that we wonder what can we do that would make any difference in something unfolding thousands of miles away. Perhaps the students and faculty of Christian Brothers University (CBU) here in Memphis are showing us the way to make an impact.
Alana Canady, a young journalist, shared the story of Kostyantyn “Kostya” Domaratskyy, a CBU student and soccer player from Ukraine. He shared with Alana that when Russia invaded his homeland on February 24th, “The first time I heard this, I was like three days inside my head. I was around people, but I didn’t hear them because I was inside my head. My thoughts were with my country, with my family, because you are never ready for this.”
Back home in western Ukraine, his relatives are now among the millions facing the impact and consequences of the invasion. Kostya has kept in touch with his family. His mother and some relatives have escaped to Poland, but his father and uncle remain in Ukraine.
On the day the war started, his coach took him to breakfast. Christian Brothers president David Archer called him. Texts of support flooded in. “This is how it is for me, the American response, from my view,” Kostya says. “I am the only Ukrainian in this university and they paid so much attention to me, and we can see America right now help also my country.”
Lucas Drummond, a Brazilian teammate, first bonded over being far from home. “As soon as I saw the news, the first thing I did was text him because he’s a good friend of mine,” Lucas said. “I can’t even imagine what he is going through right now. I don’t even know how he is playing soccer to be honest, with all the stuff in his head. But I love this kid. He helped me a lot, and I’m just trying to be around him as much as I can.”
Soccer coach Enda Crehan, who is from Ireland, said the outpouring of support for Kostya has grown far beyond the university’s community of foreign students. “That’s the kind of beauty of college athletics and the culture that we have here,” Crehan says. “Credit to the school, the university, president of the school, athletic director, everybody’s been — literally everybody, board members — everybody’s been reaching out to find out how he is, what they can do…”
Jesus said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
The CBU soccer team and college community remind me of that mustard seed. They are doing what little they can for a friend directly impacted by this crisis. There are little things we can do like pray for the people of Ukraine, for those in Russia protesting the invasion, and for the people of Poland and other countries welcoming refugees. We can make gifts to Episcopal Relief & Development to support relief efforts for those displaced, and think and plan about ways we can help Ukrainian and other refugees from troubled places rebuild their lives when they arrive here in Memphis.
Kostya’s family here, his teammates, are showing us the way by turning soccer balls into mustard seeds for a friend they love.