Rover founder discusses ongoing work in Lviv for Ukrainian Freedom News
Joseph Lindsley, journalist, Notre Dame alumnus, and founder of the Irish Rover, is living in and reporting from Lviv, Ukraine for Ukrainian Freedom News. He spoke with the Rover this week to discuss his work covering life in the country during the war with Russia.
Rover: How did your work as a journalist first bring you to Ukraine?
Lindsley: Not long after I left Notre Dame, I began working for Fox News. I had big conflicts there and ended up needing to leave the country. Some American friends invited me to visit Ukraine. I met journalists who, inspired by the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, decided to create new media dedicated to making democracy work. Thanks to another connection, I came to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. When the pandemic hit, I stayed, because it was a very free place during the pandemic. I never anticipated living here, but now I am meant to be here. I cannot leave until Ukraine is victorious against Russia.
Rover: How has your Catholic identity shaped the work that you’re doing in Ukraine?
Lindsley: I believe that we can have some idea of the truth. We can seek the truth, know it, and share it with the world, whether it is in the small facts of the situation or the larger narrative of life. In Ukraine, I see journalists who care about the truth so much and want to make sure that policies work for everyone. The Catholic faith is part of the quest for truth, and it is in the background of life here, which is one of the things I have loved about Ukraine.
Rover: Given the mix of Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism, how do you see religious pluralism shaping Ukrainians’ understanding of the war?
Lindsley: When I first came here, José Casanova, a Georgetown professor, told me that the civil society and religious spirit of Ukraine today is similar to what Alexis de Toqueville saw in America during the 1830s. Ukraine is one of the most tolerant countries in the world. It had to deal with the Soviets and the Nazis, and you still feel the echoes of those memories. But today, Ukraine is a pro-pluralistic and welcoming place, but also with its own very strong identity.
Rover: Could you describe the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and religion in Ukraine?
Lindsley: That is a complicated story, but there is a welcoming sense in the Catholic churches that is not as present in some Orthodox churches. There is also some evidence that the Moscow Patriarchy churches are hotbeds of Russian agents and spies. Every indication points to Russian spies all over Lviv, and there is a great sense that many come from the Russian Orthodox church.
Rover: How has the Catholic character of Lviv shaped its citizens’ response to the war?
Lindsley: The people are resilient and still go on with their lives. Here in our newsroom, everyone wants to have a family-style dinner with a candlelit table every night. They insist on maintaining their soul, their unity, and the things that they live for. Two Sundays ago was the first air strike near Lviv. No one slept that night. But in church the next morning, Mass was full and the choir was singing. Life continued and the people were calm, and I think that comes down to a sense of faith.
Rover: What role has the Church played in humanitarian efforts, especially given the large influx of refugees in Lviv?
Lindsley: Since February 24, the first job of every single person here has been to win and to help those suffering. The Catholic Church is so much a part of the fabric of society that it does not stand out in that sense because everyone is doing their part. Where it does stand out is that as the street music of Lviv evaporated over the first two weeks of the war, you could still hear the chants from the churches. The Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said no priest may abandon his church, even if the Russians are at the door, so they will stand no matter what. They are the fiercest patriots.
Rover: How is the war impacting the daily lives of citizens in Lviv?
Lindsley: Lviv has been spared destruction so far. In every speech, Putin makes it clear that he wants to destroy Ukrainian culture. The Soviets were able to destroy the language and culture in the east, but it was harder for them to do it here in the west—that is why Lviv is a center of culture and identity. Since the war began, the music has returned to the streets. A few days ago, the symphony orchestra was playing Beethoven in the city square. Even when there are air raid alarms, you see people sitting at cafes. The city continues life as normal, but there is tension every minute here.
Rover: For readers who are interested in learning more about your work, where can they find your publications?
Lindsley: From the first day of the war, with a team of volunteers including the city’s best bartenders, musicians, journalists, and students at the Ukrainian Catholic University, we created Ukrainian Freedom News to share information in English about what is happening. You can see all of our content on our landing page, lvivlab.com, but our primary channel is Telegram because we can reach people there without any interference by the algorithms of social media.
Thomas Richter is a junior at Notre Dame from Columbus, Ohio, double majoring in philosophy and political science. You can find him in the library’s second floor reading room or coveting other people’s dogs on campus. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christian McKernan is a junior from Yardley, Pennsylvania, majoring in finance and minoring in constitutional studies and European studies. He is co-founder and treasurer of the Ukrainian Society of the University of Notre Dame. Please direct any comments to email@example.com.