Ukraine: Don’t blame Russian people, says priest who fled Moscow

Reverend Glen Ruffle is staying at home of Primrose Hill vicar

Friday, 15th April — By Isabelle Stanley

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Reverend Glen Ruffle at St Mark’s

A PRIEST who was forced to flee his posting in Moscow when war broke out has condemned horrifying atrocities in Ukraine – but urged people not to blame the Russian people.

Reverend Glen Ruffle has been given a place to stay at the home of the vicar at St Mark’s Church in Primrose Hill after having to uproot just months after arriving in the Russian capital for training at an Anglican church.

He had been told to leave for his own safety at the end of February.

“People were going about their lives as normal, there was no information about the invasion in the news, just a very small story about a special operation to kill Ukrainian fascists,” Rev Ruffle said, reflecting on the period just before Vladimir Putin began ordering missile strikes and sent in the tanks. “There was no sense of scale.”

He added: “On February 27, I remember it was a Sunday, we were in church and people had started to leave. We were reassuring them, saying we had no plans to leave because Moscow was peaceful and safe. Then the next day I got a call from my boss saying we need to leave. Two days later, I was in Sharm El-Sheikh. The flight took ages because we had to avoid Ukrainian airspace.”

Reverend William Gulliford at St Mark’s invited him to stay with him while he waits to see where he will be posted next.
“I’ve had to begin again, but I just have to deal with it,” Rev Ruffle said. “We lost our entire life in a few days.”

For him the hardest bit has been leaving his congregation behind. The church had built up a community of expats from across the world, as well as many Russians who viewed the church as a refuge.

He said: “There were so many good people I had to leave behind. There were so many broken people who needed help. They feel powerless there, it would have been nice to stand by their sides. They’re desperate, they feel the world blames them, but they can’t do anything.”


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Asked how he had reconciled accounts of Russian atrocities with his faith, he said: “There’s the aspect of freedom and free choice. This is the classic example of us misusing our free choice. If we followed Jesus, this would not be happening.”

He added: “There is a life after death, we have to believe that the suffering now is not wasted and we may not understand how but there is the bigger picture. All we can do is stand by people through the suffering in the joy and the misery.”

Rev Ruffle does not know where he will be posted next, but he doesn’t think it will be possible to return to Russia. He said: “Rev Gulliford and his family have been so kind, and the people of Primrose Hill have welcomed me in.”

He added: “It’s not made me hate the Russian people. It’s the military forces who have been brutalised themselves in Russia. It’s a bunch of 20-year-olds who have been lied to about what they’re doing.”


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