In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance. —Phillis Wheatley, 1774
A Message From TheoEco's Managing Director Steve Richards
Well, it looks like I’m going to Ukraine. I’ve bought my ticket on American Airlines from Boston to Warsaw via JFK and London Heathrow. Leaving Monday, March 28th. My daughter Bobbie seems okay with it. Not thrilled exactly, but getting used to the idea. She’s also instrumental in making it work by holding down the TheoEco fort in Boston. She’ll be editing and posting the regular daily (?) updates on my trek from Western Ukraine and linking them up with short videos being uploaded to video editor Amit Nepali in Kathmandu. Bobbie will also be my primary point person as I venture through Western Ukraine over the month of April, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) a day on average. She’ll be updating the map, social media, and communicating with interested/concerned folks in general as I traverse the 600+ kilometers from Lviv to Rivne to Khmelnytskyi, and then back to Lviv.
Why We’re Going
Why Western Ukraine? We are going to shoot a documentary about the area focused on the economic and ecological entanglements the area is engaged in as Putin conducts his war in the midst of active nuclear power plants, two of which are located in Rivne and Khmelnytskyi. The notorious Chernobyl plant is no longer active and is under Russian control, as is Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia, which attracted worldwide attention recently as it was being shelled by Russian troops. This is what spurred me to want to head to Ukraine and document the situation at these plants, at least the ones I could get close to relatively safely. Those in the west are not currently in battle zones though things can change quickly so we’ll be closely monitoring the situation.
TheoEco’s focus as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is on the potential environmental catastrophe that local human economic activities—like the need for electricity and control thereof in wartime—might inflict on its ecology. Additionally, the theological underpinnings of the conflict are always in the background, and I will be digging into these as well. And to that end, I will be looking to network with the Christian community as I go. My first contact with a member of a Ukrainian denomination was last week with the Very Rev. Archpriest Yaroslav Nalysnyk, MD, DMin., at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Boston. I’m expecting a deep and fascinating dive into the Ukrainian Christian world on my travels and hope to juxtapose that tradition with that of Russia’s, which appears to be at the heart of Putin’s—and much of Russia’s—belief system as it relates to the war.
TheoEco has a very specific point of view on all this, however, which is why it is producing this documentary. TheoEco was set up in 2015 in the immediate aftermath of the Nepal earthquakes of that year. An outcome of my three years at the Yale Divinity School, it is principally concerned with the intersection of economics with our ecology. When I saw the nuclear plant on fire I knew the catastrophic potential was big. And it seemed like a worthwhile and doable project if I just got on a plane, took a train to Lviv, and started walking. I want to see firsthand and hopefully interview authorities that can reassure the world of the steps being taken to safeguard and defend these facilities.
After flying into Warsaw from Boston and then taking the train to Lviv, I will aim to hike 600+ kilometers—or about 360 miles—over the month of April, more or less. That’s about a week and a half from Lviv to Rivne, another week or so to Khmelnystki, and then another week or two back to Lviv, then another train back to Poland. This route and timeframes will be subject to change depending upon various conditions, including the weather, my legs (I'll be carrying my life on my back), the war, interview opportunities, etc. I may also need to hitch a ride rather than hike at various points along the way depending on the aforementioned conditions. If you would like to encourage my aching feet along, please consider a pledge of a dime per kilometer (or more) for each kilometer I finish on foot as proven by my Apple Watch logs updated daily.
Along the way I am planning to document and tell some great stories about the people I meet. Ukraine’s struggle and fight for liberty is something people everywhere can understand. Certainly those of us in the United States where the Alamo, Minutemen and the Declaration of Independence are at our core “get” these folks, as do free people throughout the world, and those struggling to be.
So off I go, and I hope you will consider going with me! To stay in the loop there are several options. You can sign up for our newsletter/blog, follow the Facebook page, or follow my new Instagram account. I also hope you’ll consider helping us defray the costs of the trip and production and supporting the folks in Ukraine.
Most of all, please send a thought and a prayer my way as you do for Ukraine. I’ll be needing all I can get.