We hate Americans, evangelicals and Nazis and you are all three!

Pastor Dimitry And Helen R125
Dimitry, pictured with his wife, Helen, has experienced Russian persecution on three separate occasions in his life yet continues to serve an underground network of churches in Ukraine © Release International 2024


We hate Americans, evangelicals and Nazis and you are all three!

Pastor Dimitry, who faced interrogation at the hands of Russian invaders displaying the same mindset as their communist forebears, was forced to escape Ukraine but continues to minister to underground believers there. Kenneth Harrod heard him share his inspirational story.

Church leader Dimitry is familiar with fleeing from Russian persecution of Christians. During the course of his life it has happened not once, not twice – but on three occasions.

The first of these was as a young man, when his family fled from the former Soviet Union. Years later, as a pastor, he was forced to leave the Crimea when the Russians took over that part of Ukraine. Last year it happened again, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine saw him once again suffering for his evangelical faith.

Although the communist regime of the old Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, Dmitry sees the same mindset among the Russian invaders today. ‘In communism the mindset is that there is no value in human life: it’s all about the country. Humans are just instruments to build something great. Evangelical theology is different: it’s about human life because Jesus died for you and me; not for a building or an organisation. He’s not building a structure. He came to save people.

‘Everywhere where communists are there is always a problem for the evangelical church,’ he said. ‘They always want to take the Word of God from you. They want to control, even though they try to be your friend and convince you they care for you.’

Dmitry describes himself as a fifth-generation Christian. His great-grandfather played a leading role in organising a Baptist church movement in Ukraine and south Russia. But when communism took over life became difficult.

‘Lenin initially thought Christians were an asset; but eventually realised Christians were a problem. It was a difficult time under the Soviet Union; many people were killed. Christians were frequently targeted most because they always think freely: because they know the truth that sets you free. Communism is not just political: it is more of a religion – but a religion that hates God and his Son, Jesus Christ.’

He recalls as a youth, back in the 1980s, Christians having to write out parts of the Bible and other valued Christian books by hand. Getting a Bible was difficult – and dangerous. ‘They [the communists] didn’t want us to read the Bible, because the Bible can change your life. They were afraid of this,’ he said.

Dmitry’s father was interrogated by the KGB on a number of occasions, because of his Christian faith. Eventually the family fled from the USSR as religious refugees in 1989 and ended up in the United States. The family had no paperwork and no money and as a young man Dmitry lived for eight years without any passport, until he received US citizenship.

Having studied theology in America he felt a calling to go back to Ukraine. His friends thought he was crazy to do so, and he expected that it would be for a relatively short time. That was 30 years ago!

‘We established 58 churches in Ukraine. Eventually I took pastoral charge of a church in Crimea which was having some problems. Then, in 2014 the Russians came in – suddenly, quietly. Everything changed. We tried to stay there, but they said I would have to renounce my [US] citizenship. They gave us ten days to leave, so we left all of our belongings and moved to Melitopol, which is about 100km from the Crimean border. I started working with churches there.’

‘Every day I thought it could be the last day of my life’

And then, in February 2022, Dmitry found himself – for the third time in his life – confronted by hostility, as the Russians began their invasion of Ukraine.

‘At 5.30am rockets came to our city. We all woke up and said, “It’s war.” Everything changed. Within a week our city looked like Armageddon. No gas, groceries, telephone lines, internet, electricity. It was crazy: in the middle of Europe! I had a church of 500 people. I had a business. I was doing good until the Russians came to free us up! They freed us from everything. Now we are completely free – we have nothing!’

In the Russian-dominated regions of Donetsk and Luhansk Dmitry was involved in running a rehabilitation centre. ‘The Russians took all of our workers there and put them in a basement. They spent almost a week there. They beat them and finally let them go, but they took the building, cars, everything.’

In Melitopol Dmitry says there were numerous protests against the Russian invasion. ‘We were praying with other ministers. In the first week they began investigating the churches and then started forbidding us to pray in the city square.They started attacking the church and arresting people.’

Map Melitopal R125On March 19 Dmitry himself was arrested. ‘They came into our house at 6.30 in the morning. We saw soldiers jumping over the fence into the backyard: about 15 of them. They got into the house, separated me [from the rest of the family], took computers and everything. Then they took me to the church. They searched the building; took everything: computers, data, everything. Then they put a black bag over my head and took me away.’

During the next few days Dmitry was interrogated on a daily basis. ‘The first couple of days were really tough. In the first interrogation they told me they had a command to kill me. I said, “What for?” They replied, “First, you are working for the CIA; second, you are in charge of all the protesters in the city; third, you are supporting the Ukrainian army. You are also receiving money from other countries.” I said, “Well, if you know all this, why are you asking me questions?”

‘I was interrogated every day for three or four hours. They accused me of what I could call “normal” things – like receiving money from another country. I said, “That’s not illegal.” They said, “It is in Russia.” I said, “We’re not in Russia!” They said, “We hate Americans, evangelicals and Nazis – and you are all three!”’

Dmitry spent a total of eight days in prison, in appalling conditions. ‘Every time they took me for interrogation they put a bag back over my head and dragged me through the corridors. Every day I thought it could be the last day of my life.’

‘I had no fear. It was supernatural’

Although he could hear screams when other prisoners were being interrogated, Dmitry said the Lord gave him a peace in his heart during his time in custody. ‘I had no fear. It was supernatural. I began witnessing to them and talked about the Bible to them. I had a sleeping bag and a Bible. They said they had watched my sermons online. I said, “Good, let’s talk!”’

The Russians eventually took over Protestant churches in the city. ‘We had some large church buildings. They took all the crosses from the buildings,’ he said. ‘The Russian soldiers came to worship services and stopped the services and took fingerprints of everyone in the congregation. Then they took the building. Our former church is now a police department.’

After his arrest Christians were praying for him and Dmitry says those prayers were answered with a miracle when he was released. However, the secret police continued coming to his home and so, for his family’s safety, he made the decision to flee the country. ‘When they released me from the prison they wanted information on everyone in the church; how they live. They wanted me to bring sermons to them before I preach so they could assess them,’ he said. Instead, he and his family took a journey through the Crimea to Russia and then to the Baltic states before arriving in Poland, where he now lives, working with refugees from Ukraine and Belarus. ‘There are a lot of problems for Christians in Belarus as well, although you don’t hear about that so much,’ he said.

From Poland Dmitry now serves and supports an underground network of churches in Melitopol where he once lived and pastored. ‘We are trying to take care of those people. We have some ministers in those territories who are working with people who are still there. There is a teenage ministry there; and we are seeing teenagers coming to the Lord. We have a number of homegroups operating: we have about 120 people in Melitopol, meeting in homes.’

Despite the number of times in his life Dmitry has had to flee and restart life, he says he is not angry. ‘I’m still happy! I’m not worrying. I am still living. But the reality is people are dying every day. The war is not finished. I have friends who have lost children. I know several pastors whose sons are dead. We bury a lot of people in Ukraine.’

Dmitry regularly visits Ukraine from Poland and continues to be passionate about seeing people won for Christ and discipled. ‘I have been working with pastors from different denominations. We need to re-evaluate our doctrine and what we are teaching. When I first had to leave because of the communists the church carried on because we had structures in place. You need to be intentional about building a culture in the church; a culture of the kingdom and of the body of Christ. We are thinking about what we are supposed to be doing in the next five years. Now is a good time to be building. The church is not to wait until the war is over; that will be too late.

‘If people are to be changed they need Christ. Only Christ can change the problem. Until the end we will have more problems – and then Jesus will come. In the meantime we change a nation by changing a person – one by one. Our goal is not the nation; it is people.’

How to pray for Ukrainian Christians

  • Pray for Pastor Dmitry’s safety as he continues to visit Ukraine from Poland
  • Pray for strategic teaching and training of Christians in Ukraine
  • Pray God will use the present conflict to bring many more people to saving faith in Christ
  • Pray for the counselling ministry to Ukrainian Christians affected by the war
  • Pray for the frontline workers, who continue to preach the gospel and disciple Christians in dangerous situations

Supporting the church on the frontline

Through Voice of the Persecuted Christians, Poland (VOPC Poland), Release International has been supporting Christians in Ukraine suffering persecution in the current conflict.

Supporting The Church In Ukraine R125One project provides pastoral support for those who have suffered, including pastors and their families who have been detained, interrogated, tortured and seen their churches closed down. In September VOPC Poland ran a trauma-healing retreat for a number of Ukrainian believers (pictured). These included one church leader who, in 2022, was arrested and beaten almost to death. Incredibly, when the town he had previously served in was liberated by Ukrainian forces he returned to continue his ministry!

VOPC Poland said, ‘We have developed personal contacts with different pastors who have gone through persecution at the hands of the Russian occupiers. We’re sure we will have more and more contacts like that as new cities and towns are liberated. We want to stand with our persecuted Ukrainian brothers and sisters and strengthen their faith.’

A second project Release International has been supporting equips a small group of frontline Christian workers operating in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine, often in the war zones. One of these workers is based in a town not far from the city of Kharkiv, which has seen heavy fighting. He said, ‘Many people from our church, especially young families with children, were forced to leave for the west of Ukraine or abroad. Some people stayed in the city. The ministers of the church organised round-the-clock prayer, which has continued without a break since the beginning of the war.

‘Currently we serve the residents and those living in other settlements in the region. People come to us, whom we evangelise, feed with dinner and give humanitarian aid. This year there were 70 new people at the Easter service – 11 of whom repented and accepted Jesus.’


These precious believers need your prayers and gifts to survive – and rebuild their lives.

Your gift could provide:

  • vital food parcels
  • pastoral care and Christian discipleship
  • vocational training to help believers start small businesses.

To make a gift please call 01689 823491 or give online.


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(including our Persecution Trends Report 2024) here

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