A Catholic university community in western Ukraine is reeling from a July 6 missile attack on the city of Lviv, located less than 50 miles from the Polish border.
Russia launches 'barbaric attack' on civilians near Ukrainian Catholic University
Russian military launched 10 Kalibr missiles at the Lviv region from the Black Sea overnight, with Ukraine's air force stating it had intercepted seven. The remainder slammed into more than 300 homes and apartments, killing 10 and injuring some 37. Emergency workers are continuing to retrieve victims from the rubble, with the specific number of casualties yet to be determined.
The missiles struck within some 600 feet of Ukrainian Catholic University, which sustained minor damage to four of its campus buildings. No one on campus was injured, the school said in a statement.
UCU president Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, who had just presided at the school's commencement activities the week before, said in a statement to OSV News that "the attack of innocent civilians by Russia is unconscionable" and "barbaric."
The missile strike was the largest inflicted on Lviv since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, which continues aggression initiated in 2014 with the illegal seizure of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and the fomenting of separatist activities in the country's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Amid the explosions, those on the UCU campus sheltered in the school's Church, St. Sophia, Wisdom of God, which OSV News recently visited during a tour of Ukraine in late June.
According to a statement issued by UCU, the dean of campus ministry, Father Nazariy Mysiakovskyi, reported hearing one child sheltering at St. Sophia with his father say, "Dad, the Church saved us."
UCU theology graduate and former employee Ihor Kysylevych, who along with his wife and five children lived in a nearby apartment, also took refuge in the Church, said the university in its statement.
"The windows in our apartment were blown out," Kysylevych said. "Due to the shockwave, our exit door jammed, and we couldn't immediately leave the apartment. We smelled gas. We knew there would be another strike, so we ran out of the apartment in whatever we were wearing and instinctively ran to seek shelter in the Church of St. Sophia. On the way to the Church, there was a third strike. We fell to the ground, and I physically felt the shockwave, although we were already quite far away."
After the alert ended, university rector Taras Dobko and UCU employees checked on survivors, traveling to the adjacent city park across from the attack site, said Kysylevych.
UCU graduates Artem and Maryna, whose house was hit by the strike, said their apartment building – in which a number of UCU community members and St. Sophia parishioners lived – was "completely civilian," with fellow residents mostly "people of retirement age who would not be able to take care of themselves in such a situation" as a military attack.
University staff and students assisted the injured, bringing water and respirators while helping first responders to clear the debris. The university also is "preparing lodging for those who have been forced from their homes, who have lost everything," said Archbishop Gudziak.
"Having just spent two weeks with bishops, clergy, politicians, students, soldiers, mothers and children, widows and orphans, I can say that Ukrainians are holding strong," he said in his statement. "But the danger is daily and real, the trauma is deep, and it behooves the entire free world to respond in support of the brave defenders of freedom and justice."
Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.