A Ukrainian American pastor residing in war-torn eastern Ukraine has been released from detention more than a week after Russian forces captured him during the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The wife of Dmitry Bodyu, who was reportedly abducted by Russian forces from a home in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol on March 19, announced on Facebook Monday that her husband had been released.
“Dmitry is home,” Helen Bodyu wrote. “He’s doing well. Thank you for your participation, for your concern, help and love! God is good!!! Praise the Lord!”
The pastor's family had previously told media that Russian forces stormed their home, confiscated her husband's American passport along with their phones and other devices. After the abduction, the pastor hadn't been heard from for days.
According to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, Bodyu emigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union in 1990 along with his family.
He settled in Burleson, Texas, located near Dallas. Pastor Otis Gillaspie of Open Door Church in Burleson sponsored Bodyu and his family, enabling them to come to the U.S.
Although Bodyu and his family became American citizens, he opted to return to Ukraine along with his wife to establish several churches.
Bodyu serves as the pastor of the Word of Life Church in Melitopol. Gillaspie told the local news outlet that despite the danger he currently faces by remaining in Ukraine, Bodyu “won’t leave ... his flock” because he “feels a mandate from God to do what God has told him to do, no matter what is happening around him.”
“I really feel like prayer makes a difference, and it’s made a difference in this case,” Gillaspie added. “You can’t meet him and not like him. I felt like he [captured] those who captured him.”
Bodyu’s abduction came a day after he posted a video lamenting that “the city is full of Russian troops.”
“Our routine has changed,” Bodyu said in the video. “We’re ministering outside, we’re trying to collect anything we can: groceries, vegetables, water, medicine and we’re trying to distribute around the city.”
The pastor noted that many people were sheltering in the church as as it served as a place of “fellowship" and enabled people to “pray together so they can cheer up each other.”
“We cook hot meals all the time so people can eat, and this is our routine now,” he explained. “Mobile connection is very, very slow. A couple of days ago, we didn’t have electricity, water, internet, mobile connection [for] almost two days.”
Bodyu addressed the atmosphere outside the church and touched on the fighting in the last month.
“Today is OK,” he said. “There is no shootings around. Yesterday, there were some rockets flying to … our city but we are holding on.”
Bodyu concluded the video by expressing hope that “everything will be finished soon.”
“We believe in this, we’re praying about this and I believe that God can help us,” the pastor stated, adding that Ukrainians in other cities have it “even worse” than he does.
On March 11, Reuters reported that Russian forces kidnapped the mayor of Melitopol, later releasing him in exchange for the return of nine captured Russian soldiers.
According to the latest civilian casualty update published Wednesday by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1,189 civilians have been killed since Russia first invaded its eastern European neighbor on Feb. 24.
An additional 1,901 civilians in Ukraine have been injured since the Russia-Ukraine conflict began. The casualties in Ukraine include 108 children while an additional 142 children are among those injured.
The agency indicated that “most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes.”
Since the invasion began, over 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org