ETHOS in practice during the war

One of the best patrologists in the world, Czech theologian Lenka Karfikova reflects on the war in Ukraine

On March 17, one of the world’s most famous pathologists and head of the International Pathological Association, at the request of Konstantin Sigov, director of the Center for European Humanitarian Studies at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, expressed her thoughts on the war in Ukraine.

Lenka Karfíková is a Czech Catholic theologian, philosopher, translator (Anselm of Canterbury, Hugo Saint-Victor), and publisher (in the Oecumena Publishing House, Fontes Latini Bohemorum series, Library of the Medieval Tradition). Lenka Karfikova received her Ph.D. from Katholische Universität Eichstätt (Germany) in 1997, and is currently working as professor at Charles University in Prague, and as a researcher of the Center for Patristic, Medieval and Renassaince Studies in Olomouc (Czech Republic). She is a member of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic, the Czech Plato Society, the president of the Patristic Society of the Czech Republic, in 2015-2019 she was the vice-president of the Association Internationale d’Études Patristiques.

Dear Constantine,

Thank you very much for the invitation to send a Czech voice to besieged Kiev. It is clear that the Czech solidarity with Ukraine, which has fallen victim to Russian aggression, is enormous. We immediately compare it with Munich in 1938, when the great powers Britain, France, and Italy agreed to abandon the Czech border regions inhabited mainly by Germans to Hitler. Czechoslovakia was determined to defend itself and mobilization took place, but we eventually surrendered, deserted by the allies, who wanted to prevent the war. They did not prevent it. 

Our memories of August 1968, when a half-million-strong Soviet army invaded Czechoslovakia, are also present. We still remember songs from those times where we advised Russian soldiers: “Go home, Ivan, … and never come back. Never.” Nevertheless, the situation cannot be compared with yours, because we did not defend ourselves, even though we count 296 dead and 577 seriously injured in connection with the Soviet occupation. Our government, under pressure from Moscow, agreed to the “fraternal help” against the alleged imperialists, and our soldiers could not stand to arms, although some wanted to. This was followed by twenty years of the so-called “normalization”, when the “Prague Spring” and the freedom of the Czechs and Slovaks with it perished under the tanks of the Soviet occupiers. Thank God, all the Russian soldiers are gone again, since 1991. It was one of the first things that the free state, led by Václav Havel, negotiated after the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989.

That is why Ukrainian flags now fly not only in Prague, but in all Czech cities and towns, we accept refugees as much as we can (there are already over 270,000 of them in our country), and we try to get to know the Ukrainian culture better. We play compositions by Valentin Silvestrov, we look at the photos from St. Sofia in Kiev and from the Pechersk Monastery, we read the Galician writer Taras Prochasko, we think about the analyses of the historian Serhiy Plokhiy. We admire the bravery and rationality of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; we compare him to Václav Havel, who was originally a man of the theatre, too, although, fortunately, he was not subjected to such a terrible trial. Recently, the Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, together with the Polish and Slovenian delegations, even visited President Zelensky and the Prime Minister Shmyhal in besieged Kiev to show them solidarity. Europe and NATO should help Ukraine as much as they can. It is our task in Europe to insist on it. After all, it is also our war. You are waging it not only for Ukrainian independence, but also for Europe as a free continent and the European and Christian ideas, such as the dignity of every human being and the right to personal and political freedom. It is utter cynicism that Vladimir Putin pretends to be the protector of Christianity while trampling on these most basic values.

It is only with great disgust and sorrow that we learn a practical lesson of his deadly ideology of Holy Russia (the “Russian World”) and of his claims to other post-socialist countries, now thankfully free. With a feeling of gratitude and shame, we realise that the Ukrainians are fighting for all of us now, and we wish wholeheartedly that you will succeed where we did not succeed in 1938 and 1968. Václav Havel’s words from 1989, ridiculed so many times by his critics, have gained a new meaning in these days: “Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred.”

Greetings and solidarity from free Prague, 

Lenka, March 17, 2022


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