Home EVENTS Preacher-Turned-Soldier and Tortured Theologian Mourned in Ukraine

Preacher-Turned-Soldier and Tortured Theologian Mourned in Ukraine

Preacher-Turned-Soldier and Tortured Theologian Mourned in Ukraine


Born May 21, 2002, into a poor family in a rural Ukrainian village, Vinogradar’s parents separated when he was young. His mother remarried, and his relationship with his stepfather was strained, said Alexei Kalchuk, a former minister in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and longtime friend.

“When his mother gave birth to his stepfather’s son and daughter, Artem became completely superfluous in this happy family,” Kalchuk told The Christian Chronicle. Vinogradar went to a boarding school in Poltava, where a teacher instilled in him a love for his country. He became a cadet of the Ukrainian Cossacks.

“During his last two years of study at the boarding school, Christians from the Church of Christ began to visit the school,” Kalchuk said. “These people taught lessons about the importance of moral and spiritual values in human life, and Artem soon made friends with Christians and began to attend church meetings.” He was baptized in 2018.

He graduated at age 17, “and left the walls that had warmed him in recent years,” Kalchuk said. “Not knowing what to do next and where to go, he turned to the church, which already considered Artem to be one its own.”

He stayed witch church members and became close to Christians including Fedor Chernichkin, a minister for the Church of Christ who moved to Poltava after pro-Russian separatists seized control of his homeland in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014.

“He was young and determined to serve in the church and to be faithful to God,” one of Vinogradar’s friends, Artur Lytvynenko, told Suspilne, Ukrainian public radio. “I remember him as a young, stubborn and courageous guy with a rather hard core.”

Vinogradar attended the Ukrainian Bible Institute — which had relocated from eastern Ukraine to the country’s capital, Kyiv. The school is associated with Texas-based Sunset International Bible Institute.

“He was a sharp student, and I will always remember his good nature, his smile and his love to laugh,” said Brandon Price, director of the Ukrainian Bible Institute. “He had overcome much in his past, and his future was bright.”

His girlfriend, Valentina, also had overcome a difficult past, Kalchuk said. Orphaned at age 3, she was raised by her aunt and also had studied at a boarding school.

“Artem often came to Valentina’s house and helped his girlfriend and her (aunt) with the housework in order to be close,” Kalchuk said. “He was taught in the church how a Christian should look after a girl … Soon Valentina accepted Christ into her life and they began to attend meetings of the Church of Christ together.”

They married in May 2021. Kalchuk performed the wedding ceremony. Soon the couple has a son, Benjamin.

“Artem and Valentina wanted to become the best parents for this baby,” Kalchuk said. “They wanted to give him what no one gave them … They succeeded. But in February, the war began.

“Artem, already a youth leader in the church, helped in serving immigrants and refugees. He joined the ranks of volunteers who evacuated people from cities that were in the war zone and transported food and first aid to areas where there was no electricity, communications and water, but there was death and destruction. His wife was waiting for him at home and prayed that this cup would pass from him.”

He was drafted into the army in December and trained in Britain, Kalchuk said. 

“When Artem called his wife and friends, he always said that he did not want to kill anyone and (that he) hoped that the war would end before he completed his training. But he also said that he was called to defend his country, home, family — and this is different because there is no greater love than that if someone gives his life for his friends,” Kalchuk said, citing John 15:13.

Vinogradar served as a sniper in the airborne assault unit, Suspilne reported. He died in combat Aug. 15 near the village of Verbove.

Valentina is pregnant with their second child. Program for Humanitarian Aid, a nonprofit supported by congregations including the A&M Church of Christ in College Station, Texas, paid the couple’s rent as they served the church.

“Artem was one of our kids — and part of PHA’s ministry for many years,” said Wes Hawthorne, development officer for the nonprofit and a member of the A&M church. “He came to our summer camps for several years.”

His wife and child relocated to Greece with Chernichkin and his family. Ukrainians across Europe mourn, including Kalchuk, who spent 51 days trapped in the Mariupol church’s building with fellow believers as intense fighting raged outside.

“My brother was killed,” said Kalchuk, now in Poland. “He protected his family, our country, his children. Artem, we will surely see you! Rest in peace, my friend.”


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