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While the conflict over Ukraine continues to cripple Europe with both political and refugee crises, displaced refugees include a diverse group of Ukrainian nationals. This includes Christians, secularists, Muslims, and members of other religious traditions including Satanism. While it is taken for granted that larger religious organizations will be offering aid to members of their communities who need help, we rarely focus on the plights of members of severely marginalized religions, such as Satanism.

Some members of The Satanic Temple (TST) contacted me regarding their efforts to help Satanists within their community who are impacted by the Ukraine invasion.

WHAT IS THE SATANIC TEMPLE?

The Satanic Temple believes that religion can and should be divorced from superstition. They do not believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural but embrace the literary figure of Satan as a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty in the face of insurmountable odds.

The mission of TST is “to encourage benevolence and empathy, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits.”

While Satanists are commonly believed to be blood-drinking, baby-eating, sexed-up drug fiends, The Satanic Temple’s membership are actually a close-knit community of people who grew up in our interconnected digital world like everyone else.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, members of TST began working in conjunction with the organization’s Executive Ministry to offer aid to members trying to flee the conflict. 

TST co-founder and spokesperson Lucien Greaves says the organization is doing what they can to help members affected by the war find and pay for housing using the organization’s general donation fund

In normal times, “Church helps members escape war” is not news. But these are not normal times.

“My name is Karina Valentine, I am now 21 years old.”

I had the opportunity to discuss the Russian occupation with one of the Ukrainian refugees who fled Kyiv and found a place to stay in nearby Poland with the help of The Satanic Temple.

I contacted Karina after hearing that The Satanic Temple was working with refugees on the ground to offer support to members of their organization. She agreed to take the time to answer some questions about evacuating from Ukraine and finding refuge in nearby Poland.

In Ukraine, I worked for an international company whose bosses promised to help with the evacuation, but in the end, they simply left us in Kyiv during the most difficult period.

An interview with a refugee

During our exchange, Karina told me about her experience surviving the early days of the invasion and her evacuation across Ukraine’s western border.

In the first few days, it was really very scary because explosions and shots were heard from everywhere, military planes were flying over the houses and we had to hide in a bomb shelter, which was not equipped at all, there was no ventilation, there was dust, cement and asbestos under our feet, and people had to just sit on the cold floor for days.

Many houses around were destroyed and there were soldiers who shot at civilians. I did not know what to do, because in the early days it was impossible to leave the city, all the tickets were sold out and there were no evacuation trains.

We managed to leave only four days after the start of the war, on February 28, when evacuation trains appeared. At the station there was a crowd of people who were trying to get on the train to Lviv, it’s hard to put into words how many people there were. Most people tried to help each other. We drove like this for about 10 hours. At large stations, volunteers came up to the train to bring water and food.

Displacement and the weeks-long path to rest

Karina showed me some pictures that her friend took nearby where they lived in Kyiv.  A row of bombed-out cars in a parking lot. Smoke billowing across the city skyline. A giant impact crater in what appears to be a children’s playground.

It is unsettling to see what was just weeks ago a place where modern, urban life blithely carried on so devastated by weapons of war. Surely, whatever political machinations have led to this crisis, the residents of that apartment complex shouldn’t be the ones paying the price for it.

Vladymyr Vorobiov / Shutterstock.com / Editorial use

In Lviv, we stayed overnight in a hostel that accepted refugees. Everyone there was very kind. They offered hot tea and food. As far as I know, there are now even more volunteer organizations in Western Ukraine that help to accommodate people who need help.

From Lviv we traveled west to Poland. There were many other buses at the border, but surprisingly the buses passed quite quickly. We crossed the border in about an hour. There were also many people who crossed the border on foot and drove cars.

All the people we met were friendly and tried to help each other.

There were also many volunteers who helped with train tickets to different cities and they also offered food, drinks, and toys for children. Volunteers even brought food for my dog. I am very grateful to these people.

Are refugees being sufficiently accommodated?

I asked about the state of accommodations provided for those displaced by the conflict. Karina says that while relief workers are doing everything they can, space is limited, and she worries that the influx of people may be more than the economies of neighboring countries can accommodate.

As far as I know now, unfortunately, in Poland there are problems with housing for refugees due to the large number of people. The Satanic Temple helps me a lot with accommodation, they helped me pay for hotels in Warsaw.

Many of my former colleagues also went to Warsaw after me. I tried to help by leaving them the phone numbers of volunteer organizations that they could contact upon arrival.

In fact, I am pleased to see how people in many countries of the world have united in order to help civilians adapt to new conditions. Many people left the country with nothing at all, just to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones. So I think that all the volunteers are doing an incredible job.

The struggle for justice is …

Katrina wanted to make it very clear that were it not for the aid of the Satanic community in general, and TST in particular, they would have had a much more difficult time finding themselves in a position to discuss their situation with me. 

I don’t think I would have been able to get through this if it wasn’t for the support of Lucien Greaves and TST all this time.

I was terribly scared, probably I had never had such strong emotions before. And Lucien talked to me all the time to distract me from everything that was happening, it was a very strong emotional support that helped me not to despair. And I don’t think I would have decided to leave the country so quickly with my mother and dog if I didn’t have such wonderful friends.

Unexpected support

I am really very grateful for all the help.

In fact, I did not even expect that so many people from TST would support me. To be honest, when Lucien talked about my situation during movie night and people in the chat started writing such kind and warm words, I cried because I felt like a real part of something great and united, like one big family in which everyone loves and cares for each other. I am incredibly happy to be part of such an amazing organization.

“Movie night” refers to a recurring community event on TheSatanicTemple.TV in which members congregate in the site’s chat and watch B-movies.

Help comes for one Ukrainian Satanist, but what about everyone else?

It is certainly a good thing that Greaves and the rest of The Satanic Temple were able, and continue, to help with displaced Ukrainians in the TST community. I know that predominant efforts by secular humanitarian organizations tend to be prioritized in these kinds of situations. That is right. It is important to get people to places where they feel safe and fed before they can take the time to process everything that has happened.

This is why organizations like Doctors Without Borders are important right now. However, while health and wellness organizations can help treat physical injury and supply material support, the emotional needs of people who find themselves in situations like Karina’s are often left neglected without aid.

Many people who arrived before me were accommodated in hostels and places provided by volunteers, this is most often a large room with many beds and nothing else.

Some of my former colleagues stayed with friends in Poland, some were just looking for the cheapest accommodation.

Karina looks forward to long-term settlement outside Ukraine, but is concerned that people looking to start over now that they have abandoned their homes will be met with an uphill battle.

I think it would be nice to provide these people with at least temporary work, but I’m not sure that the government can find so many jobs.

Now that Ukrainians have left Ukraine, what will they do?

Karina’s situation is similar to stories we are hearing from all over Europe as Ukrainian refugees escape to safety. While the situation is ongoing, we cannot ignore the real human costs involved in this sort of displacement. What of those who can’t return, or whose homes have been bombed and have nowhere to return to—where will they ultimately go? While European Union and NATO nations offer emergency assistance, what long-term suffering do we need to come together to find ways to alleviate. These people are displaced through no fault of their own, and we shouldn’t be treating this human-made disaster any differently than a natural one.

FOR INFERNAL USE ONLY Jack Matirko was raised in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but it didn't take. His projects include The Left Hemispheres Podcast, The Naked Diner Podcast, and An Ongoing and...