Our help arrives!
Our project partner, Rev. Andrzej Gontarek from Lublin in Poland, reports on the current situation of aid for refugees from Ukraine and on the use of the aid funds.
Helpless in the face of war? Resourceful in times of need
From Matthew 25:35-36;40: For I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was wandering and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me... I assure you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
Following the Russian aggression in Ukraine, many clergy and faithful of our Church have been very active in helping our Sisters and Brothers - children, mothers and the elderly. We are grateful to our Sisters and Brothers for rushing to our aid, both prayerfully and materially, for which we express our heartfelt thanks. The refugees will need this help for a long time to come. Thank you very much for your support, it is very important because it comes at the first moment of arrival of refugees from Ukraine.
As a result of the war, many people are still arriving in Poland without any personal belongings. And what is encouraging - they find here accommodation, food, basic cleaning products, underwear and clothes. By 12 May 2022, over 3.3 million Ukrainians had crossed the border into Poland. According to various data, about a million of them have moved on, but more than 2 million are living among us - many since the day the war broke out. The turn of February and March was the most difficult time - it was a shock to us too - seeing crowds of children, mothers and elderly people at our border, at railway stations, on trains filled to 100% capacity.
The Polish Catholic Church in the Republic of Poland exercises pastoral care for its faithful in parishes close to the border with Ukraine - in the Lublin and Podkarpacie regions - these include: Chełm, Lublin, Bażanówka, Łęki Dukielskie, Sanok. It should be noted that many of our parishes, to the best of their ability, have become involved in a wide range of charitable and caring activities for Ukrainian refugees - to this day there are collections of food, clothing, cosmetics and hygiene products. The clergy, in consultation with local government authorities, try to respond to the needs of our guests on an ongoing basis. Such cooperation between our parishes and local authorities takes place, for example, in Bażanówka or Łęki Dukielskie, where safe shelter has been provided for several dozen people from the Ukraine. If something simply has to be bought, they are not left alone with such dilemmas. Today, no one is surprised that the rectory building has become a home for the family not only of the parish priest and his family who serve there, but also of Ukrainians who were driven from their homes in Ukraine by the fratricidal Orthodox war.
Among the Ukrainians living among us, a very large number are children and young people. When we meet with clergy who work as catechists in schools, we also discuss the issue of caring for Ukrainian students. Many participate in remote learning, connecting via Zoom with their teachers from schools in Ukraine. The last two years have enabled all of us to learn not only to work but also to study remotely - a great fortune in the reality of war times. Here, however, another problem often arises: how can we learn remotely using, at best, mobile phones? It is thanks to your help, among others, that the parish in Lublin was able to buy 15 laptops and give them to children and young people in Krzczonów, Lublin, Chełm and Kotłów.
Among the clergy of the Polish-Catholic Church, one cannot omit Father Tadeusz Budacz from the Polish-Catholic Parish of St Barbara in Małobłądz, who has been very involved in helping Ukraine since the beginning of the war. Together with residents of the Olkusz Poviat, as part of the activities of the Strong Foundation, he organises transports of the most necessary goods. Thanks to the organisation, new flats have also been built for Ukrainians residing in the district. Information about the collection and the trip aroused great interest among the residents of Olkusz County. As a result, four vans filled with the most needed items were transported to Medyka. This way, regular actions called by the participants "Strong Convoys" started. Subsequent actions reached much further than the Polish-Ukrainian border. Strong Convoys delivered a lot of goods to Winnik, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Irpin, among others. As part of the "Light for Ukraine" campaign organised in cooperation with Jakub and Marlena Madej, several lorries and minibuses carrying candles and candle inserts travelled to Ukraine. They were delivered to places without electricity and to shelters where people were staying without light, says Father Tadeusz Budacz.
Another action organized by the participants of Strong Convoys was Water for Ukraine. Once again, lorries and vans loaded with mineral water went to the eastern border of Poland. An Easter holiday for the Ukrainians was also organised, involving the delivery of food. Many people are involved in helping. Volunteers from the Olkusz district work until late at night, packing gifts donated for the collection. The activities of the Strong Foundation do not end with collecting and delivering the most necessary items. We have received two vacant buildings (buildings which could be converted into flats) from Mr and Mrs Zagał and Mr Zacłoń, where nine rooms could be created. The work and furnishing of these buildings was financed by donors from the USA. We were helped by companies whose employees carried out the renovations for free. Thanks to this we were able to create new premises for Ukrainians, reports Father Tadeusz Budacz. As well as creating new housing, it is important to help them obtain documents, find work, translate documents, find accommodation and much more - to accompany refugees in adapting to the new situation in which they find themselves today. We want it not to be a foreign place for them, although it is probably impossible to replace the family home.2
The seminarians at our seminary work as volunteers providing various kinds of assistance to refugees - at the Central Railway Station in Warsaw, among other places. This is practical pastoral work in the broad sense of the word - to be alongside those who need help.
Since 24 February, a stream of refugees from Ukraine has been pouring into Poland every day - this requires many hands ready to help, and so far everyone who needs help has received it.
Thank you very much for every little good you can do for others, because we are not helpless.
Rev. Andrzej Gontarek