Mystics and Psychics Predict How the War in Ukraine Will End

KOSTIANTYNIVKA, Ukraine—In a large bedroom in eastern Ukraine, a woman in her eighties wearing a fluffy pink bathrobe hunches over a table by her bed. The room is filled with icons of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, and Saint Nicholas, figures she believes protect her against evil curses and the dangers of the war. The woman fixes her stare at the table, which she has filled with playing cards, ranging from the ten of clubs to the queen of hearts. She looks at me and says, “You need to leave Ukraine. You are in danger if you stay.”

Anastasia says she is psychic and has made a living off of her “abilities,” which play a crucial role in the lives of her clients. Two years of Russian aggression have left some of them eager for answers to their everyday problems, like love and wealth, but they also ask if there is a reason they should leave their homes, like a looming occupation or if they will become a direct casualty of the war.

Turning to the Mystic

Belief in magic was prevalent in this region long before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but since the conflict began, psychics and witches have become even more popular. People turned to YouTube, Instagram, and Telegram channels to follow supposed psychics who predict how the war will unfold, where its dangers lie, and how long it will continue. Some of these social media accounts have attracted tens of thousands of followers who read the general predictions for free, or pay for a personal reading of their lives.

One Telegram channel called “Ukrainian Combat Witch” has more than 34,000 subscribers, and its description reads, “Predictions about war that used to be called Prophecy.” The channel, run by a woman named Anna, claims to be able to predict when there will be air raid alarms, missile attacks, and when occupied areas will be liberated. One recent post claimed that the Donetsk region will gradually be liberated but at a “great cost.” The Daily Beast contacted Anna on her Telegram account, but she declined to be interviewed.

On YouTube, a young woman with more than 160,000 followers reads tarot cards about the war. In a video from February, the woman told the people who tuned into her livestream that Ukrainians are experiencing “mass exhaustion” from the war. She predicted that there would be more electricity outages in the country and more attacks from inside Russia, adding, “There is a danger for Russians here,” as she looked at the cards.

A portrait of Anastasia in her bedroom in eastern Ukraine.

Anastasia in her bedroom in eastern Ukraine.

Anna Conkling/The Daily Beast

Anastasia too claims to be able to predict future events that will occur in Ukraine, and told me that the war will end in the next six months. She refused to elaborate on how that will happen or who will win. In Kostiantynivka, Anastasia is known throughout the city for her “powers.” She claims to read the future with a deck of playing cards, spreading good news and dangerous omens to those who pay for her readings.

Anastasia claims to have been a psychic since childhood and says her mother was one before her, adding that her adult son could be too, but he “turns away” from his “powers.” Anastasia has clients from throughout Ukraine who come to visit her and some from European Union countries like Germany, who call her and ask questions as she pulls cards.

“I do not need any questions. As I see everything in the cards, I can tell everything myself and give a piece of advice to the person,” she said.

While mostly women come to visit Anastasia, she said that recently, some men have too. “If a man is going to the army, I can tell him to be brave, and I can comfort him that he will come back alive and safe,” she said, but only if the cards show that. Once, the psychic claims she had a dream where an entity told her that she is allowed to “foresee the future” with the help of her playing cards.

Standing in the back of the room as I speak to Anastasia is her neighbor, a woman named Galina Tretiak who lives with her two sons and children just across the street from the psychic’s house. Galina has been visiting Anastasia for 15 years and has asked questions on subjects ranging from her business to her family. She says that everything Anastasia has said came true, but not in the way Galina thought it would. “It comes true in different times, sometimes next day, sometimes next month or year,” she said.

“I ask her once a month if we need to leave [Kostiantynivka]. Is there any danger?” Galina said, while the sounds of explosions were heard in the distance. “She said it’s OK to stay at home, and [the war] will finish soon,” she added.

A History of Magic

Eastern European countries have a long history of healers, witchcraft, and clairvoyance. In Ukraine, the first record of pagan fortune tellers dates back to medieval Kyiv, from 912 to 1024. Christine Worobec, a historian and co-author of the book Witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine 1000-1900, said that at the time, there was “reference to devil worship and magicians,” in both countries.

These people who claimed to have magical powers had a checkered history in Ukraine. At times the magical practices were often tied to Orthodox Christianity and were seen as a benefit to their town, where they could help locate lost people in forests or pray over sick bodies to heal them. At other times, the practitioners were deemed satan worshippers, beaten or burned at the stake, as they were believed to be the cause of death and destruction of crops in their villages.

During the Soviet era, Worobec said that the practice of witchcraft was forced underground, so it could survive unmolested by the Communist Party. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, parts of Ukraine and Russia saw a resurgence in spiritual practices, said Worobec. People claiming to possess supernatural abilities were once more sought after, often finding an answer when logic and reason failed. Worobec said that after 1991, people began to turn back to their history of working with faith healers, sorcerers, and psychics in Ukraine, saying, “Mothers and grandmothers had kept folk medicine alive in some of their daily practices.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased interest in magical abilities throughout Eastern Europe where tarot cards, psychic readings, and beliefs in the mystics have become more common, Worobec said. As the war in Ukraine enters its third year, people have been even more keen to seek answers.

“People are starting to get really discouraged,” Worobec said. “In this awful time of this brutal war, [there is] no sense of control—who goes missing, who gets raped, who gets tortured? I’m not surprised Ukrainians are turning to other sources of help.”

The Donbas Psychic

Religious paintings in Anastasia's home in eastern Ukraine.

Religious paintings in Anastasia’s home in eastern Ukraine.

Anna Conkling/The Daily Beast

Back in her home, Anastasia insisted on asking questions about my personal life and my translator’s. She told me that I needed to leave Ukraine for six months, until after the war supposedly ends, and that I was in danger and could be harmed if I stayed. She said that I should go home, to New York City, and wait for the war to end, then I could move to Ukraine permanently if I wanted to.

“If I see a danger, I have to warn the person, and if the person believes me and behaves carefully, I may save this person,” she said as she shuffled the cards. She claims that she never tells people they could die, believing that if she does, it could come true.

As we spoke, Anastasia also tried to peer into the love life of my translator, Sergey, saying that there was a “Diamond queen” in his life, and that he should stay away from her.

Before leaving her home, Anastasia insisted that I face a painting of Saint Nicholas, the performer of miracles, above her bed, saying a prayer and that he would protect me. “Save Anna from bombing, shelling, and all misfortunes,” she said as she mimed the cross before me.

I asked Worobec whether there was any evidence that these psychics had real powers. She said that it does not matter what the people documenting Eastern European spiritual culture believe, it is more important what the community believes: “We have to be able to see the world through their eyes. I think somebody who has a reputation that is that long is more trustworthy. If she commands respect, I think that’s different from somebody on a video.”

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