The eyes of much of the world are turned to what is happening in Ukraine. Our hearts and minds and prayers are focused there as well.
The fourteen Sisters who remain in Ukraine. The situation is very difficult and volatile: there are some periods of calm, but there are also times when the fighting is close enough to be heard, and the Sisters are always on alert for the alarms warning of a potential bombing. As Sr. Maria Beata Wilk, Regional Superior, expressed, “Our situation is quite dynamic. We do not know what the next day or the next night will bring. Therefore, we try to live from hour to hour.”
The Sisters in Kiev and Brovary continue to spend their nights in the basements of the nearby monasteries or church. During the days and evenings, these Sisters help the families and children who are gathered with them in the shelters. There are constantly people leaving and new ones arriving including refugees from other parts of Ukraine.
The Sisters in Zhytomyr help to pack and distribute the humanitarian aid that comes through Caritas. Each evening, the Sisters also host the rosary online, gathering together over 100 individuals, families, and communities from Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Italy, France, USA…and maybe more. This seems to be a source of strength and hope for many.
In Gniewan, the Sisters continue to spend their days helping and supporting those affected by the war. At night, they too sleep in the parish building where they feel it is safer.
The families of our Ukrainian Sisters are also doing okay. Most of them have remained in Ukraine. Although at least one family was evacuated to Poland where they stay with our Sisters.
The presence of the Sisters who were in Ukraine and are currently in Poland has also proved providential. For example, one Sister has been helping at the border, accompanying groups of refugees to places of safety, helping with translation, combatting misinformation and offering a listening presence. She also helps in organizing humanitarian aid being sent to Ukraine. While another Sister is helping in Rabka where there are children who were evacuated from an orphanage, and a third Sister in Komancza.
Dear Sisters, while the war in Ukraine is certainly a horrendous tragedy that is causing much pain and suffering. There are also many signs of love and hope that have resulted. We can see in our own Congregation how our Sisters have risen to the challenge and are seeking ways to offer support to those desperately in need.
Our first and most powerful response to this crisis has been prayer. In every country where our Sisters are present there are intense prayers being offered for the end of war, even as far away as Australia and the Philippines. Many are praying the Rosary, many Masses are being celebrated. Holy Hours and all-night prayer vigils are being held, and daily Sisters gather with co-workers and students to pray for peace.
The Sisters in Belarus, who have been shocked by these events, are also fasting and praying fervently all day long for the end of the war. With one home close to a military airport, the Sisters struggle with the knowledge that the Russian planes leaving the airport are heading to Ukraine. As one Sister expressed, “It is horrifying, and we cry together with the Ukrainian people.”
One tragic effect of the war, is the overwhelming number of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes, almost always separating wives and children from the fathers who remain behind to defend their country. To try and help alleviate some of the suffering, these refugee families have been welcomed into our homes in Komancza, Krakow, Lublin, Ostrzeszow, Poznan, Rabka, Warsaw and Zdzary. Members of the Association of the Holy Family have taken in refugee families as well. Other communities and institutions in the United States, France and Italy have also expressed their willingness to welcome refugees if needed.
Communities that cannot accept refugees themselves have tried to offer support in other ways, including purchasing items such food and bedding for other institutions. A number of Sisters are volunteering in railway stations and other centers housing refugees in Krakow and Warsaw. There are efforts to help the mothers of these families to find work or permanent places of residence.
For children living in the various temporary centers, Sisters have organized classes, including Polish language classes. Ukrainian children have also been welcomed into our kindergartens and schools in Częstochowa, Gdynia, Kalisz, Kraków, Łukow, Poznan and Warsaw. Children are taking part in the after-school program in Kalisz as well.
In our various institutions, donations are continuously being collected. Practical donations, including clothes, medicines, food, toiletries and diapers are being gathered by many of our schools and preschools. Truckloads of items have been sent from Poland to Ukraine already, and shipments flown from the US to Poland. Rosaries have also been sent to soldiers to offer them spiritual support.
Monetary donations are have been offered from various schools, hospitals and parishes to help both in Ukraine as well as to help the refugees pouring into Poland. For example, some schools in the United States have creatively raised funds by allowing students to offer a donation and to come to school dressed in blue and yellow in a sign of support for the children and people of Ukraine. Many of our convents have also made donations and individual Sisters have donated from their own allowances.
Additionally, Sisters have used the various means at their disposal to share with others about the needs of our Sisters and the people of Ukraine, including through social media and giving talks in the parish. Some have even reached out to lawmakers in their country to encourage increased support of Ukraine.
Jesus demonstrated through the Cross, that this is only love that will overcome and conquer evil. God who knows and sees all will certainly bless each of these efforts in ways we may never know.
Sr. Maria Beata wrote: “We hope for the end of this war as soon as possible. We believe that God will protect us and that we will still be able to serve the Church in Ukraine. Thank you for your prayers. We count on them very much.”
LET US FERVENTLY PRAY FOR PEACE
For this wishing to join the Sisters for the online Rosary at 9pm (Kiev time), the following ZOOM link can be used:
Meeting ID: 439 444 0126
Text re-edited: Circular No. 28 of Sr. Angela Marie Mazzeo to the Sisters of the Congregation, for the purposes of www.nazaethfamily.org