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The crisis in Ukraine and the response of the Church and the POL Province

General Coordinator of JPIC. Brother Carlos Ferrada SVD received a report from the POL Provincial Coordinator of JPIC about the current situation in Ukraine. This is what he wrote to Bro. Carlos:

I would like to share with you a short report about the current situation in Ukraine. I don't want to write about the details of the current conflict, I mean where the fights take place, how many people lost lives, how many are wounded, or who is winning or losing. This you can follow in the media. It is not the purpose of this report.

General Context of the Situation

As we all know the current conflict is escalating day by day. Russian troops attacked Ukraine on February 24, from the east, north, and south. Truly, something unimaginable happened, although we all knew that Putin gathered thousands of troops near the eastern border. However not many could predict that he will attack so many places all over the country, not only the regions of Donbas and Lugansk, in eastern Ukraine, where the war has been going on since 2014.

We clearly see his true intentions now without any doubts. This is to capture the whole of Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 was another small sign of what we see now on a bigger scale. Russia, on the other side, tries to explain the reason why they started the war, this is to protect Russian citizens living in Ukraine. They also would like to accuse Ukraine of killings of the Russian people in eastern Ukraine but these are all lies or fake news as we say now. Please, do not believe in any kind of propaganda from the Russian side.

Polish former president, Lech Kaczyński, in 2008, in Georgia, gave a memorable and prophetic speech, when Russia invaded this small country, Georgia. He said "Now, Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine. Next Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) and then maybe my country, Poland". Now, this nightmare comes true. Let's be aware of it. That's why it is so important to help Ukraine today at all costs because all Eastern European countries are in danger now, and maybe also Western European countries as well.

Situation in Poland

The border between Ukraine and Poland is more than 500 km long. They are our neighbors on the east side. There are eight border crossings. Once the war erupted, Ukrainian citizens run away to save their lives in the nearby countries. Most of them come of course to Poland. Since the first day of the current war already about 300,000 people found a safe place here. Only today we welcomed more than 100,000 refugees. There are many nationalities among them. Most of them are Ukrainians but also people (students) from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

The legal procedures at the border are simplified on both sides (Polish and Ukrainian) in order to let as many refugees as possible cross the border in the shortest time possible. On the Polish side, they are warmly welcomed. There are reception points once they cross the border (not at the border but close) where they can rest, eat and drink something hot, meet the doctor, fill in documents and move on. There are transports organized by the government that bring them all over the country. However, very spontaneously private people also come to the bother crossings to help the refugees, bring them food and then carry them to the families, hostels, schools, or other places where they can stay. In many cities, people organize fundraisings, food, blankets, clothes, medications, etc. One detail but very important one regarding refugees is that the majority of them are women and children.

It is significant in comparison with the last migrant crisis at the Polish-Belarus border a few months ago, where we could see mostly young men. Now, Ukrainian men stay home to fight with the Russian aggressor. Many Ukrainian men who live in Poland decided to go back to Ukraine to fight for free Ukraine.

The crisis and the Church’s response

Of course, Church in Poland plays an important role. First of all, there are responses to the crisis coming from Caritas Poland, local Caritas, and Caritas SPES (Greek catholic). Then, we also have other Church institutions such as the Aid to the Church in Need or other institutions. They organize humanitarian help directly to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Church. It is very important to help the local Church: sisters, priests, parishes, congregations there. Besides that, the Church organizes material help for the refugees in Poland.

This past Sunday and in the coming Ash Wednesday, in all local churches, parishes organized fundraising for Ukraine as well as a day of prayer and fasting for peace. Bishops asked male and female congregations to host refugees in their facilities (communities or retreat houses). Last but not least the Church calls for solidarity and unity in prayer for the Ukraine nation and for the end of the war. Christians pray the rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, receive Holy Communion in the intention of the peace.

The SVD’s response to the crisis

Ukraine belongs to the Polish Province. We run three communities there in the central part of Ukraine. Three Polish confreres work there. Currently, one of them is in Poland now. Two others decided to stay in their communities. They are safe and it seems that so far this region is not in direct danger. One of the confreres is preparing rooms to welcome refugees. He hosts 35 people now. Our Mission Office is raising funds to help our mission there. Polish Province is in contact with our confreres in Ukraine. Father Provincial and I wrote a letter to all confreres in the Province encouraging everyone to host refugees, pray for peace and take part in humanitarian relief for Ukraine. We gave shelter to 8 Ukrainians in our community in the north, near the sea, where we run a small hotel. Five others are expected. Yesterday, one of our confreres, the director of Migrant Center in Warsaw, went to the border in order to help African refugees and see directly what is going on there and how we could help.

The JPIC Coordinator ended his report saying, That's all for now. I hope you will have a wider and clearer vision of the war in Ukraine and the situation in Poland. I will try to keep you updated from time to time.