War-Torn: Stories from Ukraine - Chaplain crew brings aid, hope to the front lines

In a tucked-away Zaporizhzhia compound, the morning starts with a hymn.
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 10:20 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - In a tucked-away Zaporizhzhia compound, the morning starts with a hymn.

Then comes the mission plan, a prayer and an eruption of movement, like a hive coming to life: all the military chaplains know, almost instinctively, where everything is and where it needs to go. Bodies form lines with swinging arms as conveyer belts—funneling boxes of food and bottles of water into vans and trucks beds.

We rode along with the chaplain team to towns near the front lines.

“It’s very extremely dangerous every time,” chaplain Gennadiy Mokhnenko warned us.

Where most of the people here in camouflaged fatigues carry rifles, chaplains like Kratkovskiy Asckolt wield a very different kind of instrument: a saxophone.

Asckolt was a musician before the invasion.

“I can play pretty much everything besides the violin,” Asckolt said.

He helped this chaplain team rescue thousands of people from the brutally-occupied Mariupol.

“And I saw my calling, my new calling. some are called to defend and to kill the enemies. my calling is to serve others in need,” Asckolt said.

The goal for Asckolt is to, for a moment, pull them out of a world blighted by war—the shell-blasted and bullet-sprayed houses, the legion of displaced people looking for food—and bring them somewhere warmer, safer.

“Bach said that with music, we can touch Heaven,” Asckolt said.

On our way back from the front, Mokhnenko tells us his son is having a wedding in an hour. We make it just in time and see a different side of life in the war. His soldier son has one day to enjoy married life before returning to the front in the morning.

In all the turmoil and trauma of a grueling war, you can see pockets of light poking through. The chaplain tells me it’s their job to carry that light.

“Everybody got united and became one big strong family,” Asckolt said. “And even in this environment, we still see God’s miracles.”