‘In these difficult times, we, the Salesian Family of Ukraine, ask the whole Salesian world to unite and help the Ukrainian people in this tragic moment, praying for peace and offering support with humanitarian aid’
These are the words of Fr Anatoliy Hetsyanyn, a member of the Salesian Team continuing to work and live in Ukraine. As we see daily through the media the war is continuing and people in huge numbers are looking for shelter and safe places for their children, women, and elderly people. Some Salesians are directly in the combat zone and are helping the civilian population by providing material, emotional and spiritual support to the local populations heavily affected by the bombing and fighting.
Please help the people of Ukraine! Donation form below!
Salesians and the wider Salesian Family in the Ukraine and neighbouring countries have opened their homes, schools, and parish buildings to the many displaced people. As an international congregation the Salesian order has begun a worldwide appeal for sounds and humanitarian goods and aid. This aid in the last week has been flowing in and is transferred to those who most need it on the ground in Ukraine and among those centres supporting the displaced in neighbouring countries.
As the Salesians Ireland we continue to provide support through our Don Bosco Aid office in Dublin. We are deeply moved with the support that we are receiving through our appeal from so many in this country. We thank you on behalf of our fellow Salesians and the people they are helping. We continue to keep in contact with our Brothers and Sisters directly caught up in this humanitarian crisis and our appeal remains open. We are focusing our response on 2 areas;
Getting funds to those Salesians centres whose doors continue to stay open day and night in Ukraine itself.
Support for the reception and continues support of refugees in the Salesian Centre around Poland.
To date and with your help the Don Bosco Aid office here in Ireland have transferred €122,587 and the collection continues. We continue our goal of raising €300,000.
In the sections below you can find more updated information about the situation in Ukraine:
Interview with Natalia
Father Akacjuszowi SDB, who works in the Salesian Parish at Czerwinsk, dedicated to the Annunciation, interviewed Natalia.
Where did you come from?
Natalia: I come from Khmelnytsky Region.
What did you do before the war?
Natalia: I worked in the Ukrainian health service as a nurse. The rest of the time, I took care of my home. I am a wife and a mother of 3 children, with whom I escaped to Poland.
Is your husband with you?
Natalia: My husband stayed on in Ukraine. He is a doctor. He is on duty to help those in need, especially now, when so many injured people need him so much.
Since when are you in Poland?
Natalia: We came to Poland on the third day of the siege of Ukraine.
Do you feel good here?
Natalia: Yes, both my children and I are in good circumstances in Czerwinsk. We feel safe and everyone cares for us. The children are happy. They are provided with education and they spend their free time playing games. On the other hand, I help my compatriots here in filling in the documentation, language communication and assimilation.
How do you know Polish language?
Natalia: My family has the Polish Card. My mother and grandparents were Polish. Poland is my second homeland. Two languages were spoken at home, Ukrainian and Polish.
So, this is not your first visit to Poland?
Natalia: No, I have been to Kracow, Wroclaw, Mikolajki, Gdansk and Warsaw. What impressed me most during my earlier stay in Poland was the Masurian Lake District and the numerous beautiful forests; all the nature around me; and I love being in green areas.
What is your biggest dream?
Natalia: To return home to Ukraine as soon as possible. I hope it will be soon.
Ukraine fights every day, no one gives up!
Natalia: Yes, Ukraine is fighting for life and freedom for us, so that those who had to leave may return home and begin lives anew.
What would you like to tell your compatriots?
Natalia: All women, especially those with children, may leave Ukraine, now that there is a war being fought. There are many people who will give them shelter and provide them decent accommodation. I understand that some women may want to stay in Ukraine with their husbands. I believe that is also a good decision. Whichever path they take, let it be in accordance with their conscience.
Interview with Wlodzimierz
Fr Akacjuszowi, Salesian serving in the Parish of the Annunciation, spoke with Wlodzimierz, a young boy, a 7th grade student who has found shelter with us.
Where did you come from?
Wlodzimierz: I was born and raised in Zhytomyr, a small city near Kiev.
What was your life like in Zhytomyr just before the war?
Wlodzimierz: That is the town I grew up in. I went to school up to 7th grade, met with friends and went on trips, as all young people do.
Have you been to Poland before?
Wlodzimierz: I have not. It is my first time.
So, how come you speak Polish so well?
Wlodzimierz: At school, Polish was an additional language which was taught by Ms. Yulia, who is of Ukrainian origin, too.
How do you feel in Poland?
Vladimir: Everything is fine. I go to school and have already got several good grades. I am happy and satisfied.
Who came with you?
Vladimir: My grandmother and younger brother. Mom stayed in Ukraine. I call her almost every day. She doesn’t live in Zhytomyr now, but in a smaller town nearby.
How do you spend your free time?
Vladimir: We usually play and have fun in talking, watching movies and reading books.
What is your dream?
Vladimir: I wish for peace in Ukraine, so we could return home safely. I hope it will be soon and I can meet my relatives.
All our ‘guests’ are longing to return home, wanting to be with their loved ones, dreaming of the life they had before the war. War is the stupidest thing humans can do, especially in our times!
Nastia, the young refugee building hope with her bandura music
Nastia is the eldest of four siblings. Together with her mother and grandmother, they all fled Lviv in the first weeks of the Russian invasion. They knew the Salesians in Ukraine and when they reached the border, a volunteer put them in contact with the Salesian house in Krakow (Poland), where they are staying. Despite the limits on the luggage one could take along, Nastia travelled with her bandura, a traditional instrument of Ukraine that has become a source of hope for all the refugees who listen to her music and her great voice.
Nastia’s father is a carpenter and the only family member left in Ukraine. “We decided to leave Lviv for safety and it took us only one day to reach the border. Our father is happier now knowing we are safe outside the country. He now works as a volunteer delivering humanitarian aid to the population. We are proud of him because he is a patriot,” says his wife, Lubov, who travelled with her mother and four children to Poland.
They live in the Salesian Seminary in Krakow together with almost fifty other refugees who, like them, fled the war with almost nothing and without knowing when they will return home. However, Nastia quickly caught the attention of the other Ukrainians when every night she would rehearse with her bandura, a bulky traditional Ukrainian stringed instrument.
The family is very grateful “for the way we have been welcomed and helped. They have given us a lot of love and all the material things we need. We are very well here, with the Salesians in Krakow, and we are looking forward to the end of the war so that we can return home and continue our life in Lviv,” they say.
“Playing the bandura makes me calm and serene and I think it also transmits this serenity to those who listen to it.”
She, with great modesty, tells that “I am in Music School and in four months I take my exam, so I couldn’t stop practising”. Like her siblings, she follows online lessons with her school in Lviv.
Nastia and her bandura, have gradually become a symbol for the refugees who listen to her. “At first I didn’t think about it; but by playing and singing we remember our country, we give strength and hope to those who are defending our homeland and we can show that also Ukraine is important and that we need help.”
Nastia is the only member of the family to have travelled outside Ukraine earlier, thanks to music. Her siblings and mother also play other instruments; however, she is the only one that has been “to Slovakia and France for international festivals”, in addition to playing with a church group.
Interest in her music and her voice is growing every day and she has offered concerts in churches and schools. “I might not be able to make money in future through my music; nevertheless, I want to improve my technique,” says the 19-year-old. “My motivation now is to make it known that my music and my country are of interest.”
One of the traditional songs she performs, “For you… and Ukraine”, is about nature, and also about the honour of Ukrainians defending their country; it speaks of a son saying goodbye to his mother before going to war. “This song gives me pain, but also hope. We all know that Ukraine will win this war. I can’t find words to describe what is happening in my country, but let’s pray for Ukraine and help Ukraine,” concludes Nastia.
The war made them brothers
Andre and Roma’s families knew each other as they were from the same city; but they went to different schools. The outbreak of war a month ago and the flight of their families from Ukraine in the same car made them inseparable friends and almost brothers. Both dream of an end to the war soon and of returning to Lutsk, although the reception in Poland has been so good that they would like to study at the University of Warsaw.
It has been a month since the families of Andre and Roma, who are 15 and 14 years old respectively, left Ukraine together. It was the day the Russian attacks began in the East of the country. We were 17 people in a seven-seater car. “My mother woke me up to tell me that the war had started. We gathered everything and went to a nearby village. However, we were all nervous; so in the evening my parents, together with other relatives and friends, decided that we would leave the country,” recalls Andre.
Roma recounts the trip to the border as an adventure: “First I accompanied my mother to a cash machine to withdraw as much money as possible, but they were no longer working. Then, between relatives and friends, we were 17 people in a 7-seater car, plus everyone’s little luggage”.
It took almost a whole day – 20 hours – to get to the border because the traffic was so heavy. There we were told that the men could not leave. So they switched to a car going back and another family joined us, with our mother driving,” Andre recalls.
In the Polish capital they live in a flat that a relative arranged for them. “Our mothers are looking for work and we have been going to school for a week. The language is a bit difficult for us, but the other students are very nice to us”, Roma explains.
Every day they go to the St John Bosco Oratory in Warsaw. Andre explains how they got there: “We didn’t know the Salesians before, but my mother saw a Ukrainian flag on the door and thought it was an information point. When we got home, she told us that she had found a wonderful place that was a big family.
Salesians offer leisure activities and snacks. Andre and Roma meet other young refugees like themselves, and they share concerns, games and dreams. They are convinced that the war “will be over very soon and that in two or three months we will return home, but they have welcomed us so well that we would like to come back here to study at the University”.
Like cats or dogs... Testimony of a refugee from Mariupol
Interview on March 30, 2022, with Maria (name intentionally changed), a refugee from Mariupol who found refuge at the Salesian Oratory in Lviv.
The war started on February 24. They had already turned off our city’s (Mariupol) heating by February 22, then the water and light, and finally the gas. We were deprived of any communication. It was winter outside. February turned to March; the temperature was -8 degrees. We lit fires on stones in the backyard to warm ourselves up and cook anything we could. People started to take out desks from schools and kindergartens to have dry wood for kindling because everything outside was wet and frozen.
Our local government left the city in the first days of the war. The town’s mayor was already in Germany on February 23, which was confirmed on February 25 by those who had worked with him. There was no water, no bread; there was nothing – at least not in the region where I lived. We went to the river to get water for the toilet, and we brought water to drink from a well located next to the Orthodox church. All of this was done while bombs were dropping, but we had no other choice.
People killed by bombs were lying in the streets. If anyone knew them, they took them away so that relatives could bury them with dignity, write their names, and put up a cross made of sticks. The others were buried like cats or dogs… wherever they could. Mariupol is one cemetery, grave by grave, in the streets, in the yards… No one will ever know exactly how many people died there.
They bombed day and night where my house stood. First the tanks, and then the planes came and continued bombing. Everything was falling on our heads. When the war started, it affected people who were living peacefully and staying in their apartments, in their workplaces, at school, or in their backyards. When the bombing first started, we hid in our apartments, in the corners, in the elevator, and some hid in the basement. Still, the basement wasn’t properly designed for hiding because no one would be able to get us out of there if the house collapsed on top of us. One time our neighbors’ doors blew off because of a bomb. We saw how powerful it was, so we couldn’t take any chances.
My friend’s family (13 people altogether) decided to hide at my in-laws, not in their own multi-story house. There were women with small children among them (the youngest was two-and-a-half years old) and sons-in-law. It was a good, wealthy family who liked each other and helped each other out. A friend’s son asked his grandfather to walk ahead of his mother to guide her. A bomb fell soon after a few steps. Everyone was presumed dead, but when they started to clear the rubble, they found that 5 people were killed, including a two-and-a-half-year-old child. They were able to transport the rest to the hospital.
My neighbor worked in the emergency room. He drove “under the bombs” every day, and nothing happened to him. He stayed home one day when the bombing intensified, and he died in his apartment because a strong bomb blast had crushed the building’s roof. There are many similar examples. Our neighbor’s son went to the school with his wife to charge his phone, and then a bomb fell on the school. The son’s fingers and toes were blown off, and his wife died…her chest had been blown off.
How did you escape from that place?
On that last night, when the house was shaking as if there was an earthquake (We lived as if every day and every night was our last), we took a chance. We went down to the basement, sensing that something terrible would happen. The cellars were already overcrowded, but somehow we were able to squeeze in to spend the night there. During the night, soldiers came and asked which of us lived on the 3rd and 4th floors and then told us that we had two choices: die under this house’s rubble or go out into the city and look for some other shelter. If we hadn’t been warned, we would’ve waited and not gone out anywhere. I would have been gone because my house was bombed the next morning.
When we came out of the basement, it was 5 am, and we were running under fire. Houses were burning, and people were shouting: “Help us, help us! “. They were told to flee, but it was already too late – they were dying, burned by fire. About 15, maybe 20 of us escaped from the basement; the older ones came back because it was hard for them to run. Along the way, we fell down, then got up again – adults, children with dogs and cats… Everyone took whatever they could with them.
I was unable to take anything because my apartment door was slammed shut – neither pictures of my loved ones nor my favorite things. We fled to the city center, then went down to the sea, where there was no bombing, and entered the area with a city road. We waited there for a long time, 24 hours, for a bus that took us to Berdyansk [editor: a city and port on the Azov Sea]. After a long time, 50 buses were provided to take us to Zaporizhzhya [ed.: a city on the Dnieper River, the capital of the Zaporizhia Oblast].
In Zaporizhya, we were sheltered in a kindergarten. This was ironic: I remembered going to kindergarten as a child and now, at the age of 60, I was given shelter in another kindergarten! We were warmly received there, lovingly fed, and given clothes. Our next stop was Vinnytsia [ed.: a regional city in Ukraine, on the Boh River]; we spent the night there in a school. It took us a total of 10 days to get to Lviv, usually an 8-hour bus ride from Mariupol.
There’s still a lot I haven’t mentioned; there’s just so much to say…
Foremost, it’s unacceptable that in 2022, in the 21st century, such a terrible war was unleashed. My Mariupol (450 thousand inhabitants) was a beautiful city. It had terrific roads. The last three years, they managed to renovate the fountains and the zoo. We had beautiful parks, kindergartens, schools, and a wonderful theater. People sheltered there during the bombing, in the theater hall and in the basement (800 people). We heard that 300 of them had died there… I don’t know if this is true or not. People were buried in the basement, and people began to dug them out and rescue them. Many inhabitants are still left in the city. They are looking for each other; they don’t know who died and who is still alive so far.
You saw people being killed on the city’s streets. What did they do with them, and how did they bury them?
Those they knew were taken away by relatives to be buried, and the rest lay like that for days and nights, put in garbage bags and buried wherever they could. Now Mariupol – the heroic city – is called the city of the dead. We’d like to continue living in the city with our loved ones, but now, although a heroic city, there is nothing there. So who would want to continue living there? In the 21st century, a city should be like a blooming garden!
What did you do when you encountered separatist soldiers?
Does it make any difference whether they were Russian soldiers or separatists? They were all the same whether they met us or checked us. On our way from Mariupol to Lviv, they stopped us about 15 times, and that’s why we took so long. There were about 3,000 of us in 50 buses, so we waited for 2 hours until they had checked everyone. First, they thoroughly reviewed the young women and men under 60 to see if there were any snipers among them. They also checked the coaches.
How did you understand when they told you they wanted to liberate you?
What did they want to liberate us from? Looking at their faces was enough; they didn’t show any kindness. Usually, when questioned, both the men and women were silent to not say anything unnecessary.
Did you, even before the war, experience any inappropriate behavior from Russian soldiers?
Nothing like that happened to me, but my friends in the village told me that Russian soldiers occupied their better houses, mistreated them, and threatened them with forced labor.
What are your feelings and of the public in general?
Our society is divided. It has different opinions about the president, the war, and its situations. Some people left Ukraine even before the war broke out, so they lack a complete picture, unlike myself, who personally experienced this war and is still living through it. There shouldn’t be any war in any nation. We should show each other respect and kindness, whether they’re Russian or Ukrainian, Polish or German… I can’t hate Russia (I grew up there, I worked there, my relatives are there) or Putin. I hate his power: he is like Napoleon! I am shocked that nobody could find a way to change him for 8 years. I am ashamed of this situation; I am worried about my relatives living there; what will happen to them?
As narrated to Fr. Jacek Zdzieborski SDB
Alina, the professional dancer who fled Dnipro
Alina, the professional dancer who fled Dnipro and now shares her passion in Warsaw.
Alina crossed the border on 2 March with her mother and 4-year-old son. They had little luggage and no idea of their destination. They just wanted to escape the war in Ukraine and the continuous stress from the air raid alarms. They have been in Poland for a month now and are grateful for all the help they are receiving from the population, as well as for the family atmosphere they experience from the Salesians in Warsaw.
Two months ago, Alina was happy in Dnipro with her family. A dance teacher and also Ukraine’s international representative in hip hop, dance and house competitions, her life changed along with that of millions of Ukrainians on 24 February, the day Russia invaded her country. “The shelling was on the first day; after that the situation was calm, but the tension from the continuous anti-aircraft sirens forced us to take the decision to leave the country,” she explains.
With her mother, her four-year-old son and two suitcases, they set out on a journey to the border that lasted seven days. Alina recalls that “first we went by train, then by car, then by train again… The trains were full of people; there were five people in space meant for one person. There was no water, queues to go to the toilet… it was horrible and in some places it didn’t even stop. People would get on without a ticket just to escape the war.
Curfews at night also meant that people had to stop on the road when they were driving. “The traffic jams were continuous and everyone asked us where we were going, but we didn’t know what to answer them,” says Alina.
Her son, her mother and dancing are Alina’s priorities in her new life in Warsaw.
They arrived in the Polish city of Chelm and searched among their contacts among their friends and family for someone who could help them. “In the end, a former boss of my mother’s helped us from Warsaw. He rented us a flat here so we could stay in it”.
Alina is moved when she talks about the solidarity they have found: “They have helped us with everything, they always offer us everything and take good care of us. The population is behaving wonderfully and we will we never forget it; but we will never be able to repay them”.
“Once we went to have breakfast in a café and the owner hosted us when he found out that we were refugees from Ukraine. Without knowing me at all, he offered me a job and also helped us find childcare for my son,” she says.
A few days after being in Warsaw, her life changed again: “We went to the embassy and a man gave us an envelope containing money for our expenses; moreover, they told us about the Salesian oratory in Warsaw and we found a welcoming place and a great family atmosphere, so we started to participate in all their activities on a daily basis,” explains the young teacher.
“If the war ends soon, we will return home, but we don’t know what will happen”.
Since last week, Alina has been offered to give dance classes to the children, many of whom are also Ukrainian refugees, who attend the Salesian oratory: “I was very happy to return to dance and to teach the little ones to dance, and very grateful for the confidence in me”.
Used to travelling and getting to know many countries, Alina wants to take some time to decide her future. “My son doesn’t know Polish and it’s hard for him to adapt, but I have told him the truth: that a bad man attacked our country and that our home is in danger. If the war ends soon, we will go back home because we miss it. We can’t send money to our family from here. We are still in contact with them there, but we don’t know what will happen. I think that if the war lasts long, we will look for another country to live in, where I can work in my profession and also help the refugees in that country”, she concludes.
A Salesian missionary touched in the heart by Ukraine
Father Ignatius Ryndzionek is a 90-year-old Polish Salesian missionary. The war in Ukraine has touched his heart because he spent 13 years in Odessa as a missionary and before that he also worked in Russia. He is a great artist, especially with paintbrushes, and supports any cause that has to do with peace.
Yesterday afternoon, together with another Salesian nonagenarian, Father Ryndzionek helped Salesian seminarians, teachers and volunteers in loading a trailer with humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
In the evening, after dinner, he climbed more than 80 steps up the stairs, very slowly and holding on to the banister, until he reached the third floor of the area hosting Ukrainian refugees. There he met a woman who was looking after her children in the play area and asked her to help him translate some words he did not understand in a handwritten letter.
An example of simplicity, sacrifice and also of closeness to the refugees hosted by the Salesians in Krakow.
Nicolai, facing the journey of a lifetime
Nicolai had never left Makariv, a town near Kiev, nor had he ever ridden a train. In the last few days, however, he has taken three trains, two buses, and even had to walk with his mother 10 kilometres from the last station to reach the border. His final destination will be Vienna, where his mother’s sister lives, so he has more means of transport to try.
Marianna and her son were part of an expedition of almost 20 refugees travelling by train to Krakow. Most of them slept through most of the journey after days of accumulated fatigue, but Nicolai was restless and curious, first about the scenery and then, as night fell, about everything going on around him.
That night, as providence would have it, Marianna and her son, along with four other refugees, arrived at the Salesian seminary in Krakow. There, more than 40 refugees live in a separate wing of the house with a dining room, laundry, games room, computers and separate bedrooms. The next morning, Nicolai’s mother said that when he saw that there were more children and that he understood them, he smiled again as she had not seen him for days: “Thanks to the Salesians for welcoming us with love and allowing us to rest for two days before continuing our journey”.
Moved by solidarity, not nostalgia
Lydia has travelled with her four children from Dnipro, where the Russian attacks began a month ago. She speaks with simplicity of the normal life they led there: the children at school, her husband running a shoe shop and she at the reception desk of a laboratory. “But overnight everything changed, and although we wished to get on with our lives, nothing was ever the same again,” she recalls.
Her children know what is happening and talk to their father every day. “It doesn’t seem to affect them and every day there is something new that surprises them. The youngest doesn’t understand it yet, does not sleep so well. He misses everything and from time to time he has nightmares…”.
She does not speak with sadness or nostalgia about what she left behind a few days ago. “We are worried, yes, but we have hope for a peaceful future, which will be soon”, she says; but, when asked about the solidarity of the whole world and the welcome in Poland, she gets emotional: “They asked us what we needed as soon as we arrived; they offered us everything; they gave us everything; they helped us with everything… we will never forget them. There are more good people around than we might think and, in these situations, it shows because they do everything from the heart”.
The key to tranquillity
At the train and bus stations, no one rushes, no one gets impatient or angry, there is no nervousness. The little luggage they carry gives the refugees away, and the many volunteers are not only friendly but also very efficient. There is always hot food, snacks, water, even pet food, and makeshift play areas for the little ones.
Andrea said goodbye to her husband and continued on her way with her two daughters to the border. The little girl sleeps because they had been travelling all night until they arrived at the Warsaw station. She intends to continue her journey to Belgium, where her aunt and uncle work. “Although the situation in most cities is calm and life is normal during the day, we decided to leave Lviv because we don’t want to live in fear, especially for our daughters”.
She is constantly checking her mobile phone for news and sending it to her relatives. However, she speaks calmly and is not worried about being in a different country, surrounded by noise and waiting for her next bus. “Do I look calm…?” she asks rhetorically. “Maybe we’ve been preparing for this for eight years and we knew it was coming. That’s the key,” she replies. “The war will end sooner or later, but we will win, and we will return to Ukraine, I have no doubt,” she concludes.
When the air raid alarm goes off... in Poland
Kilina has three children, two girls and a boy, and sometimes she doesn’t know how to entertain them. The mobile phone in these cases is always a recurring thing, so she has to divide her time between YouTube videos for her eldest, gaming apps for her middle child and cartoons for her youngest.
Kilina’s WhatsApp profile picture shows the whole family with a Christmas tree behind them, all dressed up. “It’s hard to believe that two months after that photo we are like this. There we had everything, and we were a normal family, but here, although we are grateful for everyone’s help, sometimes we feel that we are even badly dressed”.
A few metres from the table at the Saint John Bosco Oratory, while she talks to the mothers of other Ukrainian children, her eldest daughter shows her mobile phone to other friends. Suddenly, as though the phone’s ring tone, the phone starts ringing – and getting louder and louder – the sound of an air-raid alarm. Her eldest daughter first looks at the phone and then runs to hand it to her mother. “When the air raid alarm sounds in Lviv, it also sounds on my phone, so I quickly call my relatives to find out if they are OK and make sure they go down to the basement of the house to be safer”, Kilina explains. She concludes, “we feel safe and secure, but we live 24 hours a day worrying about our families and our country”.
Education is stronger than bombs
“The best thing we can do to keep our minds off the war is to keep busy,” says Yarina’s mother. “I have started looking for a job in Warsaw and my daughter has online classes and connects daily with her school in Ukraine to try to keep everything as normal as possible.
Yarina is 16 years old and left Lviv with her mother the day the war started. She admits that she likes biology, although she is still not sure what she will study when the war is over. She has seven hours of class a day and it’s time to check her mobile phone to see her 30 classmates: “Some are in Italy, others in France and Spain, but most of us are in Poland”.
Yarina’s classmates are waiting for Physical Education class to come so they can use this time to chat with their friends about what they are experiencing in different places. “We know that the war will end one day, and we hope it will be very soon. We all want to go back to Ukraine and be in our united families again. At the moment we are beating Russia in this aspect too, because they can’t destroy our culture and our desire to learn, even if they bomb our schools.
The power of a candy
Malina’s mother doesn’t want to cry in front of her. Like in the movie ‘Life is Beautiful’, she tries to look at her escape from Ukraine as an adventure and not a tragedy. At 9 years old, Malina is amazed by everything she is getting to know: a new country, many people around and displays of affection and solidarity that she doesn’t know how to interpret. “Are we famous?” she has asked her mother on occasions….
They fled eastern Ukraine and were separated from the rest of their loved ones: two days waiting for a bus, another two days of travel surrounded by mothers and children like them, and one more by train… until they reached the Polish border… Ladomila has learned to speak slowly and softly to her daughter because she knows that this calms them both down.
At the border, Malina was given a stuffed toy that she hugs to sleep, and at Warsaw Central Station she was given a toy and met her favourite Disney characters. When her mother saw her daughter’s happy face as Micky Mouse and Donald Duck gave her candies and chocolates, she made a promise to herself that wherever they went she would do everything possible so that Malina would never stop smiling, would grow up in peace and be happy…
"Tomorrow we will return home."
Tetiana is Ukrainian and has been living in the capital of Poland the last two years. Always smiling, the first thing she clarifies is that her name is Tetiana, not Tatiana, which is a Russian name. “For this reason, I have had some trouble with my passport, but it doesn’t matter, I am Ukrainian and I am strong.”
A volunteer at the Salesian oratory she attends at Warsaw, she helps and acts as a translator for Ukrainian mothers who do not speak Polish. “I am happy helping here, and even more so at this time.” Despite not being in Ukraine she suffers daily for her country: “The war actually started eight years ago, and I have lost many friends in this time. Every day I wake up wondering if I should go back to help my country and be with my family, who are still there. I think about it a lot and I don’t know how to give myself an answer”.
Since last week she has been hosting a Ukrainian friend and her son. They fled Lviv after the first bombs fell and every morning the mother repeats a phrase that Tetiana uses to cheer herself up: “Tomorrow we will return home”. That strong mentality that all refugee women have, and that phrase in particular, “keeps me serene because I know that tomorrow will soon become a reality if we stick together,” explains the young Salesian volunteer.
Without light and heating for days, sheltered in a cellar, with all the shops closed and only being able to buy bread when it was distributed in the streets… this was Natalka’s life with her children, aged five and two, before leaving Kharkov three weeks ago.
“The worst thing was the cold for my children, because all I could think about was what I was leaving behind – my husband, but most of all what I was gaining by saving their lives”.
Natalka’s eldest son, Oleh, often asks about his father. “I have told him that he has gone on a journey, when in fact we are the ones who have travelled”.
Until they reached Medyka, the border crossing to Poland, they spent several days on foot, as well as by bus and train. “The worst thing was the cold and the snow, carrying one child in my arms, a big backpack and holding the other by the hand. It is very unfair what we are suffering,” she says.
One of the Salesians of the house that took her in tells me that “they arrive with a lot of stress and anguish, even the children, for whom everything is new. One day, out in the courtyard, Natasha heard the sound of an aeroplane and Natalka was in a state of shock as she relived the moments before the bombing”.
Natalka tries to talk to her husband every day, but they can’t give each other much information either. “It is enough for me to know that he is well and that we are still united. I also console him with the solidarity I have received since I arrived in Poland, especially from the Salesians.
A united family... on weekends
Yarina knows she is privileged because every weekend her family stays together… in Poland. Her husband, Yakiv, has been working in Poland since several years, and she and her children, aged 15 and 8 respectively, used to live two kilometres from the military base that was bombed a few days ago, just 25 kilometres from the border.
They always thought that the war would not come to their village, or at least not so soon, but the bombing precipitated their flight. The Salesians took them in and at the weekend they gather together with other families in the same situation. “We form a big family thanks to the Salesians’ welcome and the fact that we all have the same concerns and needs”, says Yarina.
The worst day of the week is Sunday afternoon, when her husband and other men have to travel two hours to be back at work on Monday. “We even lose our appetite because of the sadness, but we know that in the pain of war we are a privileged family, although we are very worried about the news about relatives and friends who are still in Ukraine.
26 DAYS OF WAR by Fr Michal Wocial SDB - 22.03.2022
26 DAYS OF WAR
However, I couldn’t write everyday. Time is still quite “diverted” and many unexpected things happen. Moreover, many things during war should not be mentioned for security reasons.
In Zhytomyr, alarms are still our daily routine. However, there have been no airstrikes in the area in recent days. Yesterday I met a graduate from our school – currently a nurse on the field. Cute young woman in uniform with a rifle in hand. I wondered if you could enter church with a gun… This was the first time someone asked me this question.
The city is trying to get back to normal. There are dentists and car mechanics out there working (I checked myself). After sunset, it’s pretty difficult to travel because of the blackout.
During the day the lights are out.
School maintenance is our priority. Online learning is becoming more regular. We try to ensure that children and teens return to their regular activities as much as possible.
As far as possible … why, for example, the older students are now in: Norway, Poland, Portugal
and Italy. Different timetables and different psychological states. Some of the children attend schools in the countries where they temporarily stay. The vast majority of educators are still in Ukraine.
Even the oratory has been working for several days. Teenagers are starting to feel the need to be offline together.
When it comes to supporting war victims, we evacuated about 170 people and distributed around 7,000 kg. humanitarian aid. Let’s try to help, especially the numerous families in need and the sick.
I would like to express my special thanks to our benefactors and volunteers:
a) the Salesian Missionary Center of Warsaw led by p. Jacek Zdieborski and Missions don Bosco for purchasing a new minibus for our mission and welcoming the families of our students.
b) Volunteer Salesian Missionary led by p. Tadeusz Goryczka, SDB – for financial aid for the School Stability Fund
c) Don Giuseppe Dossetti – for support of the School Stability Fund
d) p. Andrzej Policht, SDB – for the organization of the logistics of humanitarian aid for the entire diocese
e) Ms. Tatiana Kostecka – for organizing the evacuation and the point of issuing humanitarian aid
f) M.B.W.W. parish in Skawa led by p. Tadeusz Szamara SDB and the whole community – for the warm welcome and donations to the School Stability Fund
g) Mr. Mikołaj Skrymiński – for the transport of humanitarian aid
h) Oli Retkiewicz (Ola – you know for what )
i) Grzegorz, Marta, Zofia and Piotr Wocial – it’s nice to be able to count on the family
j) The Parish of San Maurizio with the parish of Paolo Croci and Gianni San Toro – for the collection and transport of humanitarian aid
Salesian helping refugees in Ukraine
At the moment Salesians have 5 houses where they work with war victims in Ukraine.
1) Lviv – Mary Help of Christians
Reception of refugees – (up to 40 people) Women with children
Help for poor families
Humanitarian aid to the most affected areas
Organisation of trips to Italy
Food, three times a day
2) Lviv – Filippo Rinaldi
Reception of refugees (up to 200 people)
Work of psychologists
Work with children – workshops
Organisation of trips to Italy (Turin, Chieri)
Food, three times a day
Humanitarian aid to the most affected areas (Kharkiv, Dnipro, Mariupol)
We send bread every day (for now 1500 pieces per week) We want to increase to 3500/4000 sandwiches per week.
3) Vynnyky – Saint John Bosco
Reception of refugees (up to 50)
Food, three times a day
Work with children (animators)
Organisation of trips to Italy and Switzerland
Humanitarian aid to the most affected areas: Kharkiv, Mariupol, Volnovaha and other cities.
Work with the people on the spot (school shelter next door)
Help to the men, fathers of our boys who are defending the city (food, support, even talking…)
Hospitality of small groups or individuals if time permits (up to 30 people).
Work with refugees from the most active areas.
At least three times a week our priest leaves for the areas bordering Russia, brings humanitarian aid to these areas (we send from Lviv and he distributes). He takes families with children and brings them to Dnipro and from Dnipro sends them to our facilities in Lviv.
Very delicate and dangerous work because at times they do come under bombardment.
Also welcomes people into the house
We have sent from our structures about 150 people to Italy, about 20 to Switzerland. Next week we are preparing a bus of 50 people to go to Turin.
HALF A MONTH OF THE WAR by Fr Michal Wocial SDB - 11/03/2022
More and more I experience how I need regular prayer at this time: the Eucharist, lectio divina, the Liturgy of the Hours. Without time to pray, I lose to fatigue, discouragement, or fear. We still pray every day at 21.00 with our community of neighbors from the “shelter”.
To many people who wrote “How to help you” I proposed a fasting day on bread and water and four parts of the Rosary for peace. I am impressed with how many of them agreed and confirmed that they did so. Some of them have not been going to Church for many years. Thank you very much. This is a really effective help.
We have anti-aircraft alarms every day in Zhytomyr. During the last days, a heating station, a dormitory and a gas station have been bombed. According to the mayor of the city about 100,000 people left the city of Sergei Suhomlin (out of 265,000). Many shops are closed, traffic is much less on the streets. A city full of barricades, waiting for a potential siege. Those who stayed are very solid. I heard yesterday about a poor old woman who collected about 2,000 bottles at Molotov cocktails.
Yesterday we were in meria with Fr Roman Sikon, SDB, to obtain press accreditation for him. There was an opportunity to meet the mayor, secretary of the City Council and the person responsible for humanitarian aid. By the way, we discussed the details of the transport of seven tons of humanitarian aid that benefactors from Germany want to send. I proposed the premises of our school as a place of temporary residence for refugees from eastern Ukraine.
Humanitarian aid continues to come. Yesterday we received another four tons of food and other basic necessities. We distribute it mainly to our employees, other parishes, the elderly, the sick and the lonely. Medicines and dressings are transported to the center, where Matfiej Hrenow’s team (deputy and doctor) are passed on.
Every day some journalists ask for interviews and materials. Some people are very hungry for adrenaline and thrills. For an Italian journalist, the interview from Zhytomyr turned out to be too little “attractive”, as we are too far from the tanks.
The question is repeated more and more often: “How is the Salesian mission in Zhytomyr supposed to look like…?
So far only He knows the answer. Jesus, I trust you!
12 Days of War by Fr Michal Wocial SDB - 08/03/2022
“A few hours ago in Zhytomyr there were missile attacks against: an armed truck factory, at Okko gas station and once again at Ozernoje airport,
We are getting used to certain things more and more. Air alarm sirens are getting less and less impressive. Sometimes they don’t even wake me up. The adrenaline is slowly coming down…
The extinction of the population continues. Out of 198 students in our school, 85 are already abroad. More than 100 parishioners of our parish have passed away
and the Korostes. Today, other neighbors hiding in our basement announced that tomorrow women and children will go to the Polish border.
People often lose themselves and don’t know what to do or where to live after crossing the border. I’m ashamed to take pictures of them when they leave… With our help, 170 people have been evacuated from Żytomierz.
At the same time, a solidarity demonstration is taking place in the city. There is so much humanitarian help that can now be shared with Kiev. Many organizations are helping with the evacuation of civilians. Companies come together to work for defense needs.
Saturday evening I was driving 30 km to Korosteszów.
At 19:00 almost the whole city was dark, the streets and sidewalks were empty. On Sunday it was necessary to drive 6 checkpoints with document and car control.
Sunday parish ministry was at a normal pace. Eucharist, Confession, beginning of the Holy Cross, etc. Just fewer people in church…
Humanitarian and financial aid is arriving from Salesians and not only. Among others, 6 electric generators. A friend of mine from occupied territories for several days called and asked for one of the generators. He just doesn’t know how to take it for now.
We mainly work with the diocesan Caritas for the distribution to the needy.
I pray and ask God what is expected from the Salesians of Ukraine in this particular moment.”
“In these difficult times, we, the Salesian Family of Ukraine, ask the whole Salesian world to unite and help the Ukrainian people in this tragic moment, praying for peace and humanitarian aid,” is what Fr Anatoliy Hetsyanyn, Delegate of Social Communication of the Vice Province of the Greek-Catholic Ukraine (UKR), declares in a statement.
“Our homes, oratories and Salesian schools have opened their doors to the displaced – continues the Salesian – Here in Lviv, where thousands of women and children have arrived, we help with food. The youth ministry centers have become first aid centers for the affected population. Youth and parents are doing all they can to support the hardest hit regions. Every day we send food and medical supplies to people on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.”
“International humanitarian aid has already begun,” he continues. “We thank the Salesian Family of Slovakia who have already sent humanitarian aid. At the moment we are organizing large-scale international assistance for the civilian population that has suffered the most from the bombings.”
Finally, the Salesian concludes: “Some of our confreres are directly in the combat zone and are helping the civilian population by providing the most necessary and above all spiritual support.”
After the first week of war... 03/03/2022
Fr Michal Wocial, a Salesian from the Poland-Cracow Province (PLS) residing in Ukraine, shared information and considerations after the first week of war through social networks: “Most things suddenly stopped and it’s been a week since my life has been revolving around one topic. And to think I was supposed to finish my doctorate…”
On Tuesday night, rockets fell within a kilometer of our school. As a result of the attack, 10 homes were destroyed. Several windows fell in our building. I spent the night in the basement of the school, along with dozens of other people. And I decided to constantly keep the oil for the anointing of the sick with me.
On Wednesday at 7 am we left in a seven-car convoy for the Polish border to deport the women and children. The plan was simple. The men would leave their families at the crosswalk and return to Zhytomyr.
Unfortunately, after 200 kilometers our school bus suffered a major engine failure and was unable to go any further. Broken at a time when we needed it so much to transport people and humanitarian aid…
Once again I was very impressed by the solidarity of the population. A few minutes after the accident, there was someone who took us to the mechanic. Within an hour and a half, we had another car that drove our passengers 250 km to the border and wanted nothing in return.
At the border, we found out that there was a big queue at the Corczów crossing and that we had to stay in the cold all night. We found other kind local people who transported our passengers in their cars to Szegini. There the crossing took about 40 minutes. We went to sleep at 3 am. And for the first time in as long as I can remember, I did not attend Ash Wednesday Mass.
Today, (Thursday, March 3, Ed.) another group of 30 people drove to the Polish border. Among them – our students. Will they return? When? What will become of our school after 27 years of existence?
Tomorrow we will organize the transportation of 50 people. Probably the last convoy, because the Ukrainian railways have started the evacuation trains (…).
There are more and more neighbors who want to use our basement as a shelter. Many of us have a phone app called “Air Raid Alert”. It is impressive when you suddenly hear sirens blaring from multiple pockets at once.
Among the people in our “basement shelter” are a handful of children and teenagers. I bring them all kinds of games from the oratory so they have something to pass the time. I offer them bedtime thoughts and a prayer. None of them are Catholic, but almost all of them came today to pray for 15 minutes for peace.
Humanitarian aid is starting to flow in and we need to think about how best to use it.
We are slowly getting used to the new pace of war. In many things, we are taking the ‘war allowance’. Today we passed the police at high speed on the road. They paid no attention to us – they have more important things to think about…
Don Bosco Agriculture Training Centre in Lufubu
Don Bosco Agriculture Training Centre in Lufubu, Northern Zambia heeded to the Call for Solidarity towards our Ukrainian sisters and brothers.
The community, contributed by selling a Cow and sending the proceeds to the Provincial Economer to be sent to for the Intention. See attached photos.
As Neil Armstrong said about his first step on the moon, this amount from Zambia may only be a small step forward in our race towards total and integral solidarity, but it is a giant leap forward for all of us. So also, the USD $ 7,042 collected by the thousands of Salesian students and parishioners of AFC (Democratic Republic of Congo) for the victims of Odette in FIS recently – a step in education to Mission Solidarity.
Salesians in Poland help Ukraine – 27 March 2022
Since February 24, 2022, Poland has received 2.3 million people.
Last week, about 30,000 people crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border every day.
The team coordinating aid activities in Poland operates in accordance with previously published reports by Fr Krzysztof Grzendziński on projects and communication.
We appreciate the help of other Salesian provinces in the world and other organizations. Poles receive financial and donor assistance from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Austria, Malta, Ireland and the United States. Gifts in countless quantities also come from Salesian works in Poland and from many individuals. Part of the aid received is redirected to refugee homes in Poland, another part is transported to Ukraine on an ongoing basis. There are so many gifts that although we still carry them using different minibuses, we had to rent big trucks (TIR) seven times. We sent more than 120 tons of food alone. To this should be added more than 20 generators, medical supplies, personal hygiene items, beds, mattresses, sleeping bags, blankets…
The number of refugees in Salesian houses in Poland has increased compared to the previous one – we host 604 people out of 1,196 places.
On our websites on the Internet, we conduct social campaigns aimed at informing about our activities in Polish and foreign languages, which is an appeal addressed to our donors:
There is also a song “Heart of Ukraine” (Art.43) which is a great media success nationwide. The song aims to support the activities and comfort of our Ukrainian brothers.
More and more Salesian oratories and schools are approaching with a rich offer addressed to Ukrainian children. Polish language schools are run, psychological, medical and legal assistance is provided.
In total, 95.5 thousand Ukrainian children are admitted to Polish schools. They study in more than 11.5 thousand schools. It is estimated that there are currently about 700,000 children from Ukraine in Poland.
The Polish government has allowed PESEL (Universal Electronic System for Registration of the Population) numbers to be assigned to Ukrainians who intend to legalize their stay in Poland. This process began on March 16. So far, 301,000 have benefited, thanks to this number, they will be able to take advantage of social benefits. But even without this number, they can apply for a job or use medical assistance.
Salesians in Poland have already received more than 500 refugees, we are still working on offering another 600 beds, depending mainly on whether we manage to raise funds (Total possible: 366 beds in PLE, 306 in PLS, 273 in PLO, 172 in PLN). In our homes we mainly host women and children of all ages and try our best to create a space where they can feel safe and comfortable. A huge amount of work has been done in terms of collecting goods and funds, transportation and organizing accommodation. We have opened several Oratories for Ukrainian children and their mothers and we also provide them with psychological and legal assistance. There are five support centres, provided by Warsaw Salesian Society as a part of a governmental programme, accessible by refugees free of charge (in Ełk, Warsaw, Różanystok, Tolkmicko and Łódź) where Ukrainian volunteers translate the counselling provided by psychologists and lawyers for free.
We collect information from different provinces about what they can offer or what they need as part of their assistance to Ukraine. This makes it easier to determine the main direction and sequence of our actions.
It was decided that a team of four people would be responsible for identifying the most urgent needs and making final financial decisions: the Emergency Response Coordinator Fr. George Menamparampil, the Economer of the PLS Province – Gabriel Stawowy, the Economer of the PLE Province Krzysztof Grzendziński and the Economer of the UKR Province – Ivan Mazurchevych.
Our Coordination Office team has 6 people responsible for writing projects, collecting information, communication with Polish and European provinces and procures, monitoring finances and overall coordination.
In each province of Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine, we have a designated person whom we can contact directly on issues related to refugees and assistance to Ukraine. We are trying to increase this database and it is growing day by day.
We have established contact with the bishop of Kyiv – Zhytomyr Vitaliy Kryvytskyi – Salesians of the University of Ukraine, missionary delegate from Slovakia – Štefan Kormančík – Provincials of Krakow, Piła and Wrocław and the FMA – Salesian Sisters FMA.
We are really grateful for the visit of Economer General Economer Jean-Paul Muller, coordinator of the Salesian Mission Offices – Fr. George Menamparampil, Director of the Procure From Turin, VIS representatives Riccardo and Alberto. We strongly believe that cooperation is the key for fruitful and effective work and each of you really support us all the time.
We also appreciate and would like to thank Fr. Roman Jachimowicz – Regional Councillor for Central & North Europe for the idea of collecting information from all provinces and Fr. Jacek Zdzieborski – Director of Missionary House in Warsaw for turning this idea into action.
So far, we have established contact with Salesian organizations in Italy, Spain and France, and in the coming days we will talk about the possibilities of cooperation in the implementation of projects aimed to helping the suffering people of Ukraine. On the basis of data collected by the Salesian Missionary House from all the provinces of Poland on the number of refugees in each house (available and occupied places), the demand for food and medicines – also directly from Ukraine and the possibility of providing accommodation and food by houses in countries receiving refugees, we have written 16 projects covering these demands for a minimum period of 3 months. We are in the process of preparing larger projects. These 16 small projects cover costs of accommodation and food for refugees staying in Salesian Houses in PLE and PLS Provinces, equipping these Houses in bed sets, kitchenware, home appliances as well as costs of transportation, costs of food and non-food items intended for shipping to Ukraine and 5 projects to support Salesian communities in cities of Ukraine. One of the projects covers costs of creating care centres in Oratories for children of all ages so their mothers have time to find a job. We are awaiting for detailed data to write similar projects for PLS and PLN provinces.
Salesian Missions – USA finances some of the photos and videos you have been seeing, made by Fr Roman Sikon and Michal Krol. Thanks to the kindness of the Procure in Madrid, Alberto López Herrero, an expert in the field of marketing and communication is our guest at the Provincial House in Warsaw – with his help we are creating a strategy for better communication and social media content. Today (21.03.2022) we held a meeting of all people responsible for the media in the Polish provinces. We shall soon share with you our conclusions and ideas for the next steps in this matter.
Krzysztof Grzendziński SDB
Warsaw Coordination Centre
Salesians in Poland help Ukraine – 19 March 2022
Since 24 February 2022, Poland has welcomed 2,057,114 people.
The migratory movement is still ongoing, but the Border Guard notes a decrease in the number of people crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Most of the refugees are still women with children.
As of March 17, of this year, 156 male religious houses have been involved in helping refugees from Ukraine, where 3630 people have found refuge, of whom 1483 were children.
Salesians in Poland are also joining forces to help the victims of the war. Currently, we have prepared 1117 places in Salesian works for refugees throughout Poland, of which 501 are already occupied and 366 free. This number is dynamic and changes every day. If necessary, we will be able to prepare even more housing.
For this to be possible, the help of the whole Salesian world will be necessary. It costs to keep such a large number of refugees. Assuming a minimum cost of living of 15 euros per person per day, with such a large number of refugees admitted to our homes (assuming all places are occupied), we will need 502,650 euros per month (3,066,165 euros for six months). No one can know now, how long this situation will last.
We are currently sharing what we have. The Polish state has promised a supplement of 40 PLN (about 8.46 EURO) for one person per day, but only for the first two months. We have to trust that some of these people will find work. 75,000 Ukrainian children have already started their education in Polish schools. Some of them went to Salesian schools. In addition, the oratories are open for them and prepare special programs. Polish language courses are organized. Charity concerts and fairs are organized. Medical, psychological and legal assistance is provided all the time. We mediate in the search for places to live and work.
Despite the threat of war, we managed to send dozens of humanitarian convoys to Ukraine. We bring medical supplies, food, blankets, power generators, personal hygiene items and all that is needed. To this end, some communities make their cars available. Volunteers participate in the sorting and packaging of donations and provide assistance at reception points in cities and at borders.
We wish to express our sincere thanks for the fruitful collaboration with the Mission Procures of the Congregation and with other organizations. In collaboration with Turin, we managed to buy an 8-seats minibus for the community of Zhytomyr. In cooperation with Bonn, we managed to buy 300 camp beds with the same number of pillows and duvets and 600 sets of bed linen and towels. In the next transport, 47 tons of flour went to Ukraine to make bread.
According to the reports of the individual houses of the Provinces, Caritas and other humanitarian organizations are generously supported.
In addition, the Province of Warsaw (PLE) has undertaken the difficult task of coordinating humanitarian activities. At first, everyone helped as much as possible. Currently, meetings and talks are underway to develop long-term activities.
We thank our confreres and the entire Salesian Family for their interest and their willingness to help. Let us continue to pray for peace.
A little ‘home’ in a modified container
Lviv in the West of Ukraine has been a relatively ‘safe’ place. It has been rarely bombed. People who have to leave more dangerous parts of the country but do not want to go abroad, move to Lviv. There are so many of them there now, that the government is setting up container-homes for ten thousand families. Some of these will be in our compound. In this container-town each family will have a little ‘home’ in a modified container, a toilet and shared mobile kitchens. These families will now be our new ‘parishioners’ and ‘students’!
The way our Salesian communities lived the Eastern Easter
Good morning. I want to share briefly with you and, through you to the world-wide Salesian Family – about the way our Salesian communities lived the Eastern Easter (Greek Orthodox Rite).
There were several very beautiful and significant moments:
First of all, three Salesian priests, Fr Petro Mayba, Fr Hryhoriy Sved and Fr Oleg Ladniuk, were able to visit our young soldiers in the various places where the fighting is taking place. Of course, it was very dangerous to go, but they had the desire and the courage to accompany and be close to our young people at this time of Easter. These were very strong experiences. The priests had to be accompanied by the military. Close to the frontlines, they had to travel in the dark accompanied by a soldier who walked in front of the car and used a blinkered torch to show them the road. It was impressive how these boys waited until 02.00 am to make their confessions; how they participated in the Easter celebrations, without any light except for a blinkered torch, to avoid being shot at. We also brought them Easter food and many other things they needed such as medicines, articles for personal hygiene, etc. Unfortunately, for security reasons at that time and later, we cannot publish the many photos and videos we took (except for a few that shows nothing except the difficulty of offering and participating in these Religious Services).
We were also able to bring and distribute medicines and food to the most affected areas and to distribute them to families in need. We continue to cooperate with the usual places: Harkiv region, Lugansk, Donetsk, Dnipro, Kiev, where people need help, especially food.
There were good moments with our refugees from the communities. We celebrated Easter together with about 250 people, mostly children. All of them were able to enjoy the happiest moments of the feast.
Many thanks to all of you for the support you give us, for all the help you send us. I want to assure you that everything reaches the people most in need.
Fr Mykhaylo Chaban – superior
He Rose Again. We, Too, Shall Rise Again
The coordinating team had a special thought for the families that remained on in their own homes in our parishes in Ukraine. Should they not have at least a small celebration at Easter? Certainly every Christian family, particularly children, will have sweet memories of the great expressions of joy at this feast, the most important and solemn in our Christian Calendar. Should they not celebrate at least in a small way? This, despite the bombs falling not far from them. Easter will remind them of the resurrection awaiting all of us. We offered the parishes in Ukraine a special Easter gift – a little box of goodies for each family to celebrate Easter with. We got positive replies from the Greek-Orthodox parishes, who celebrate their Easter the day after tomorrow. Even as you read this, our team in Warsaw have picked up 1100 packets for as many families and are on their way to Lviv in Ukraine. May our brethren in Ukraine experience peace, joy and hope. Thank you, Don Bosco Bonn for sponsoring this.
An ambulance for the hospital at Birbrko, Ukraine
Only one story today. A story in very few words to save you time, though it has been quite a torturously long in the making. It is, in fact, a coincidental merging of two stories into a single happy ending. Some time ago this coordination circulated a video of Fr Josef Nuckowski SDB appealing for an ambulance for the hospital at Birbrko, Ukraine. A stone was cast into a calm pool. A family foundation in the USA noticed the video, got into contact with this coordinator, then with Fr Krzyzstof at Warsaw and then with Fr Josef himself at Bibrko. After all facts were checked and were found to be true, several attempts were made to buy an ambulance in Poland. The prices were unacceptable. Finally, after two days of meticulous search in Serbia, TWO perfect ambulances were bought at a much lower price. They were filled with medicines specifically asked for from Ukraine. Permissions were sought at the embassy of Ukraine in Serbia and two Serbian drivers drove the ambulances into Ukraine. Despite all the assurances and documentation, the drivers were questioned by the police for hours, but the story did have a happy ending. The ambulances reached their destination. There are photos and the certificate from the mayor of Birbrko to prove it. Thanks to “Bridge of Life” Foundation. The second part of the story is of the three pallets of medicines airlifted by “Salesian Missions – USA” to Warsaw. After days of bureaucratic paper-work, the medicines were finally released from the airport and reached the same destinations as the ambulances, and almost at the same time! Despite the work it took to get the medicines released, we have decided to accept a full container of medicines from “SM-USA” in the coming days. The power of sharing a story – a simple short video cast into an unknown sea that carried its ripples across the ocean to a distance continent and bore abundant fruits.
Krakow, Przemysl, Poland - 14.04.2022
Some photos from the visit to Przemysl near the border with Ukraine
From Palabek Refugee Camp, Uganda.
And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10: 25-37) Last Sunday, members of the Salesian Missionary Group at the refugee camp of Palabek gathered to reflect on and pray for the sad situation of millions of people fleeing the war in Ukraine. From the refugee camp we would like to express our solidarity and closeness with all the refugees. Please forgive us that we cannot send you anything; but today we have gathered to pray for all of you and for “Peace in the whole world”. All the members of this group are refugees, and we know well what it means to be a refugee. Even today, more refugees from South Sudan continue to arrive in large numbers at Palabek camp. They also walk for weeks to reach the border with Uganda and then to arrive at this settlement. They also flee from an invasion – one tribe invading into the lands of another in South Sudan and the consequent efforts to protect their rights – the armed forces of one tribe forcing another tribe to surrender their assets – grazing lands – to feed their own cattle. In South Sudan almost all tribes are shepherds, and their principal assets are their cattle, their pastureland and water.
Situation in the Czech Republic
I greet you from Prague. The Provincial, Fr. Martin Hobza, entrusted me with the task of communicating with you about the present refugee situation.
To start with, I report on the current situation in the Czech Republic, in the province of CEP. There are currently about 300,000 refugees in the Czech Republic, of which 213,000 have received special visas to stay here. All these people are gradually settling down in the Czech Republic. The Salesian works throughout the Czech Republic accommodate about 200 people in total, including over 100 children. We provide them accommodation, food and basic social counseling. We provide them mostly standard rooms. So far we have not had to use gyms or halls in our houses. We also offer open oratories, with targeted programmes for Ukrainian children, as well as children’s groups. We care especially for Ukrainian preschool children, preparation for school, cooperation with teachers and psychologists from Ukraine, job search, social assistance, etc. We collect donations in cash and in kind. We distribute these through NGOs and via personal contacts to Ukrajina, Slovakia or Poland. In the future, we will probably need to employ staff from Ukraine. We do not know yet the total capacity we will still need for accommodation and to meet basic needs.
You will be informed regularly by me. I probably won’t be able to write every day. I estimate that it will be possible for me to write you about twice a week. I will be grateful if you could give me the contacts to the Warsaw coordinate Center to both to offer and to ask the help. It will be useful for our work to be in contact with them. Can You connect us with them? Think of us as a country with a relatively large number of Ukrainian refugees. Czechia has about 10 million inhabitants.
The Salesian Coordination for the emergency response to the war in Ukraine continues its activities without pause: it facilitates the meeting between the requests of the Provinces on the front line in welcoming refugees and the options and possibilities put in place worldwide by countless Salesian realities. It also keeps the profile of communication high, so that benefactors, volunteers, and all interested parties are always kept informed about the final outcome of solidarity efforts.
Faced with a human tragedy of enormous proportions, such as the war in Ukraine, the involvement of Salesian realities and institutional actors cannot be ignored. For this reason, the “Don Bosco International”, through its Executive Secretary, Renato Cursi, our representative to the EU in Brussels, participated yesterday, March 14, in an open consultation of the European Commission on the situation in Ukraine and represented the Salesian voice and that of all the people benefited by the Salesians in this emergency.
Having participated in that consultation, today DBI released the first notes to European Salesian organizations, informing them that the EU is releasing new funds from its budget for member states so that they can protect and integrate Ukrainian refugees. To access these funds, each organization will have to go through their respective public authorities.
In Ukraine, the Salesians who are still present are concentrating on providing food and medicine to the families who have remained: the poorest, those who do not even have the resources to flee the country.
In Poland, the Salesians continue to offer all the spaces available to them to welcome and house them. But these spaces are, of course, very limited compared to the need. Therefore, they are studying the possibility of helping the “host families” who receive refugees in their homes with support in money or goods. Considering, moreover, that many refugees intend to stay in Poland for a long time, and will necessarily need a job, the Salesians are also taking steps to bring together those offering and those seeking work.
Another special focus is on children who have arrived in Poland from Ukraine, frightened and traumatized. In Poland, the Salesians have many oratories and the Salesians intend to equip them on a child-friendly basis with crèches, play-schools, nursery schools, and elementary schools, and to employ some of the many Ukrainian girls and young women who have arrived in this exodus to take care of these children.
Finally, Slovenia acknowledges the great information work carried out by the Salesian Coordination for the emergency response to the war in Ukraine: “We regularly translate information, publish it through our channels and in this way inform people about the situation on the ground and the work carried out by the Salesians,” they report.
Making known the good that is being done is a mandate left by Don Bosco himself, very often recalled also by his 10th Successor, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime.
Opening doors to Ukrainian children and youth affected by war
Wrocław, Poland – March 2022 – Since the beginning of the war, the Salesian Don Bosco “Salez” School Complex in Wrocław (PLO Province) has welcomed over 60 children and young people from all over Ukraine, who were immediately placed as students in kindergarten, elementary and high school. From the very beginning, they were accompanied by the school’s coordinator for foreigners, who speaks the Ukrainian and Polish languages. Since March 7, the students have started daily lessons and Polish language classes. Their insertion is proceeding very well and is facilitated by the special openness and kindness from Polish peers, as well as the exceptional involvement of parents. During the organizational meeting, the students were again welcomed by the management and teachers and learned about their life at school and where and whom they can ask for support. “By opening the door to children and youth affected by the tragedy of war, we opened the door to Jesus himself. It is our common joy,” said Rector, Fr. Jerzy Babiak SDB.
Global support for Ukrainian refugees continues unabated 10/03/2022
The General Economer of the Salesian Congregation, Bro. Jean Paul Muller, SDB, and the Head of the Salesian Coordination of the emergency response to the war in Ukraine, Fr. George Menamparampil, arrived in Warsaw yesterday, Wednesday, March 9. The two have already had very useful meetings and are planning a broader consultation later today to refine the coordination of the many solidarity initiatives activated in the Salesian world in favor of the Ukrainian people.
“The entire Warsaw Mission Office house is now a clearinghouse. Salesians and volunteers are busy at work all day long,” said Fr. Menamparampil.
The ferment of solidarity shakes the Salesian Family along all meridians of the globe.
In South Korea, the Salesian Mission Office has arranged a double donation to the Salesians of the Province of South Poland and those of the Vice Province of Ukraine, both of which are present on Ukrainian soil. While the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of South Korea will send the funds they have collected to FMA headquarters, which will then see to it that they reach their destination. In addition, the entire Salesian Family, during this Lenten season, will participate in a fundraising campaign and in a campaign of spiritual support, through the prayer of the Rosary, Masses….
The Province “Mary Help of Christians” based in Hong Kong (CIN) has also already arranged a donation of solidarity and launched the campaign in different territories of its pastoral action. “We also animate young people and the faithful to pray for people who suffer, especially for young people, so that peace and justice may flourish again in Ukraine,” said the local Salesians.
The Province of Thailand is also moving on the dual axis of collecting economic aid and animating the spiritual campaign.
Meanwhile, the campaigns that have already been launched by others are continuing at high speed. This is the case of the solidarity initiative launched by the Salesians of Ireland, who have sent a substantial foundation to the Salesians of Krakow; or of the Salesians of the Italy-Lombardo Emiliana (ILE) Province, led by the “Opera don Bosco onlus” Foundation, and who are already hosting 20 people, including women and children, in the Salesian house of Castel de Britti; or of “Misiones Salesianas”, the Salesian Mission Office of Madrid, which, in addition to having allocated three separate donations to the Salesians in the front line of reception management – in the Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia – is developing an articulated communication and awareness campaign that involves benefactors, the media, institutions, other civil society organizations…
Salesians in Poland help Ukraine 10/02/2022
From 24 February 2022 to yesterday, March 9, Poland has welcomed 1.37 million people: 93% are citizens of Ukraine, 1% Polish citizens, and 6% citizens of nearly 100 different countries. 90% are women with children. Many refugees bring with them only the most necessary things. It also happens that in order to board the means of transport they even leave their belongings on the street or on the train platform. On arrival, therefore, it is necessary to equip them with everything.
Every day there are still free trains and buses that take refugees to Poland. The means of transport are overloaded, often there is literally no air and some people faint. Those who don’t have a place to sit, stand.
Volunteers from the Salesian Family are involved in helping those waiting at border crossings. They distribute hot meals, sandwiches, drinks, blankets, and sleeping bags. They transport people across the border or carry them to their destination.
Many refugees make stops at Salesian homes, 1 to 3 nights, to refresh themselves, rest, eat. Others, who have nowhere to go, stay longer. Some require psychological, medical, legal care. The Salesians try to mediate in finding homes/families where they might stay longer. They then organize special programs in the oratories and children are admitted to Polish schools. Students are also given everything they need to go to school.
Practically all Salesian institutions in Poland are carrying out fundraisers and collections of materials. The money is used to keep the refugees in place or is transferred through Salesian channels in Krakow or Warsaw or through Caritas.
Convoys to Ukraine carry medical supplies, sanitary items, power generators, blankets, mattresses, long term food. And convoys arrive from Germany, Italy, Malta and Slovakia.
At the headquarters of the Salesian Missionary Volunteers “Młodzi Światu” (SWM), in Krakow, Tatiana has also been active for a few days. Until recently she lived quietly in Zhytomyr. Forced to leave, when she arrived in Krakow, without hesitation, she made a decision: “I want to help”. Her knowledge of Polish language, friendliness and organizational skills have contributed significantly to the improvement of work at the SWM office.
Together with Ania, a volunteer, she welcomed and supported the refugees from Ukraine. The Salesians are watching over everything: Fr Andrzej Król, Rector of the community, Fr Tadeusz Goryczka, President of SWM, and Fr Marcin Wosiek – coordinator of the reception of refugees in the Krakow Province (PLS) and of the collection of the necessary materials.
The warehouses are filled with boxes filled with various items on which is written: baby food, pacifiers, personal hygiene items, flashlights, bandages and much more. Monika, Diego and Grzesiek, as well as many others, sort the donations and pack them into boxes. These are the packages that, along with the electric generators, are transported to Ukraine.
Furthermore, school supplies provided by kind-hearted people have already found new owners in the refugee children in the Salesian centers in Krakow – just one of many locations where the Polish Salesians are providing shelter and inclusion in educational and play activities.
On March 3, the National Meeting of the Provincials of the Polish Salesian Provinces was held, in the presence of Fr Roman Jachimowicz, Councilor for Central and Northern Europe, the Provincial Economers, the Delegates for Mission and for Social Communication. The purpose of the meeting was to gather the necessary information to improve the coordination of the assistance provided by the Salesian Poland. One thing is certain: the Salesians with their hearts are with and for the people of Ukraine.
Network of Don Bosco schools in France and South Belgium mobilizes for Ukraine 10/03/2022
In the network of Don Bosco schools in France and Belgium-South several actions and initiatives have been launched in support of Ukraine.
In MARSEILLE – Pastré-Grande Bastide, the school, the boarding school, the high school, all mobilized to collect, make boxes and sell cakes. A list of products has been distributed and thermal blankets, sleeping bags, plaids, mattresses, pillows, shower gel, toothpaste, diapers, tents, cots, batteries, candles, flashlights… are being collected. Two vans of materials were filled as early as Tuesday.
In LYON, the students of the ST2S course (Health and Social Sciences and Technologies) of the “Don Bosco” high school are organizing a collection between March 7 and 14, in collaboration with the city of Lyon.
In TOURNAI, as part of the Lenten period, the Pastoral of the Don Bosco Institute has launched a collection in aid of the Ukrainian population victims of the war. Specifically, until Wednesday, March 16, everyone is invited to deliver hygiene products.
In RESSINS, in the department of Loire, on Friday, March 4, the students of the Etienne-Gautier high school gathered for a moment of communion. The principal, Frank Roussier, recalled that the school is twinned with a Ukrainian school, the technical school of Zabolotne. He recalled the exchanges and trips, the reception of Ukrainian pupils and, of course, the presence of Viktor, a former pupil and educator of Ressins, who returned from Ukraine shortly before the outbreak of war. Viktor read a text on peace by Jean Debruyne and, after a minute of silence, the students prayed an Our Father in communion with the Ukrainian population. A concrete solidarity campaign was also activated and an invitation to participate was given to all the parents of the students.
In FEURS, not far from Ressins, the “Puits de l’Aune” high school is mobilizing, thanks in particular to a student, Orlane Cremaux, in her final year, who with her family is part of the association “Du Forez à l’Ukraine”: on Friday March 4, a humanitarian collection for Ukraine was launched, and with the collaboration of the Principal, all families were invited to participate.
Also in BAILLEUL, in the north of France, the Immaculée-Conception school, launched its own solidarity collection.
While in PARIS the Provinces of the Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of France-Belgium South are offering to support the Ukrainian communities through economic donations, which will be channeled through the structures for the coordination of emergencies of the Congregation, based in Rome.
In addition, at the national level, on the part of the FMA is active the Salesian Foundation “Pastré” is active, as is “Fondation Don Bosco” for the Salesians.
Schools and kindergartens affected by war - 07/03/2022
According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, there are 14,873 schools in Ukraine with 4,2 million children and 441,000 teachers. On February 25, the next day after Russia attacked Ukraine, the Ministry recommended that all educational institutions in the country, including schools and universities, go on a two-week vacation, leaving children without access to education.
Instead, schools have become centers for collecting humanitarian aid and volunteering to help the Ukrainian army and territorial defense and shelters for refugees. The Ministry has launched a flash mob “Educators help”, intended to mobilize the schools’ staff to help the Ukrainian Armed Forces and civilians.
So far, the resumption of education is a private enterprise. The NGO “Smart Education” organizes online meetings for children of different ages on Zoom.
The UN Child Rights Committee said in its statement, issued on 4 March 2022, that “children in Ukraine are currently subject to extreme suffering and trauma. They are being killed and injured. They are separated from their families. Homes are being destroyed. Their education is interrupted. There are reports of schools, orphanages, and hospitals being attacked. Their daily lives and routines have been utterly shattered. As a consequence of the military attack on Ukraine, children are exposed to extreme violence and experience unbearable levels of fear and anxiety.”
According to the Adviser to the President of Ukraine on Children’s Rights and Children’s Rehabilitation, between 4 am on 24 February and midnight on 3 March, the deaths of at least 28 children and injuries of 62 children were recorded.
Attacks against schools and hospitals are classified by the United Nations as one of the six grave violations committed against children. According to the UN, at least six educational facilities have faced shelling in recent days. Two teachers were killed last Friday when a missile struck a school in Gorlovka in eastern Ukraine.
On 4 March 2022, a school in Zhytomyr, northern Ukraine, was hit by a Russian missile, receiving significant damage. At least three schools in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, were hit by Russian military strikes on Tuesday, March 1.
There are approximately 15,000 kindergartens of all forms of ownership in Ukraine, designed for 1,125, 000 children. According to the recommendations of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, due to the introduction of martial law, preschool education institutions have suspended the educational process.
The Russian army indiscriminately shell kindergartens in Ukraine. On the morning of 25 February, its 220 mm Uragan rocket dropped widely-banned cluster munitions on the Sonechko (Happy Sun) nursery, orphanage, and kindergarten in the town of Okhtyrka in Sumy Oblast where civilians took shelter, killing 5 people, including a child, and wounding another child. The strike may constitute a war crime.
A week before the start of a large-scale invasion into Ukraine, on February 17, the Russian-backed separatist group shelled a kindergarten in Stanytsya-Luganska, Lugansk Oblast.
Already on 24 February, the day the attacks on Ukraine began, the Salesians in Poland began numerous collections in their structures for humanitarian aid to the victims of the war. They support, collect and send medicines, dressings, hygiene items, power generators, blankets, food and everything else that is needed at the border and directly to the Salesian houses (SDB and FMA) in Ukraine. The first transports have already arrived on site, others are being prepared.
Help is being provided through the Salesians and Salesian Sisters working in Ukraine who have not left the country at this difficult time.
The Salesians in Poland are offering shelter to many refugees from Ukraine and to students from other countries fleeing the war through Poland. They also mediate in finding accommodation. They organise medical, psychological and legal assistance.
Today (6th March 2022) at 20.00 hours, the number of people who have fled from Ukraine to Poland has exceeded one million! So far, no refugee camp has been set up, all of them are being taken in by Polish families. The Salesians have managed to prepare several hundred places in their homes.
The Polish state is organising reception points, where they distribute blankets, meals and direct people to places of accommodation. Such points have been set up in cities and train/coach stations. Ukrainians benefit from simplified border crossing procedures, e.g. they do not need to have visas or passports. They can use public transport for free. Every day there are several trains and buses that bring refugees directly from Ukraine. People transporting refugees to Poland are exempt from motorway tolls. Mobile phone operators offer free SIM cards with a package of calls and internet.
Salesian volunteers in the country are involved in helping to collect, segregate and distribute gifts, to welcome refugees and to transport people and goods to Ukraine. They also organise lessons and take care of Ukrainian children, in order to facilitate their adaptation to the new reality in Poland.
We thank all the Salesian Family in the world for the spiritual and material support you are offering us in these days.
The War and the plight of the refugees - 13/03/2022
“In these days, we have undoubtedly suffered the pain of thousands and thousands of people. So many images of suffering and death have swept the world”. The Rector Major, Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, entrusts a new letter, sharing it with the Mother General of the FMA, Mother Chiara Cazzuola, and the World Coordinator of Salesian Cooperators, Antonio Boccia, expressing the pain that all of us are experiencing in the face of the war that has been affecting Ukraine for weeks.
In the face of this great suffering, solidarity on the part of the Salesians was continuous and did not stop, and in this new letter, the Rector Major loudly affirms, “we are with you and available in every necessity”.
Keeping this in mind, the Rector Major, in this profound and intimate letter, wanted to thank all the countries that had welcomed the refugees with a great sense of brotherhood, even accommodating them in their homes, working with commitment and dedication for the good of those who are suffering the consequences of this war.
He recalls the many other conflicts that afflict the world, and whose “effects are always the same: devastation, forced migration, refugees and numerous deaths”. In the letter, the Rector Major lists all the institutions, works, Salesian houses that are helping the Ukrainian population in this circumstance, with fundraising, delivery of necessities and mobilizations of every kind.
The Rector Major concludes his message by thanking all those in the Salesian Family who are working and reaching out during this time of emergency.
The full text of the letter is available to download in PDF
Letter from the Rector Major regarding the situation in Ukraine 05/03/2022
In the current circumstances, a message from the Father and Center of Unity of the Salesian Family, Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, SDB, regarding the conflict situation in Ukraine, could not but be forthcoming. “We too, as the Salesian Family of Don Bosco, and I personally, on behalf of all the groups, feel the duty to cry ‘No to war!’, while begging for this conflict to end and asking (and praying) for peace to come soon,” the Rector Major says.
In the continuation of the letter, the 10th Successor of Don Bosco reiterates that “the loss of human life can never find justification, since they are the most sacred element of our God’s creation. We grieve these deaths. We suffer for so many people who mourn the death of their loved ones.”
At the same time, Fr. Á.F. Artime notes that “it is wonderful to see the increasing flow of solidarity, something we want to channel (including with the indications of this letter of mine).
For this reason, in his message the Rector Major gives an account of some of the many solidarity initiatives that have sprung up in Salesian realities already in this first week since the beginning of the conflict, and offers indications for the coordination of activities and for anyone who still wants to make a concrete contribution to support the people victimized by the war.
He ended his letter by asking for fervent prayers to the Lord through Mary Help of Christians, “the Help of Christians, Our Lady of difficult times.”
From the very first day we started to welcome people escaping from the war. People from Lviv started to bring food and other stuff for refugees. From Slovakia, the Salesians sent a truck of essential supplies for refugees. Until now we have everything needed to accommodate people. Our volunteers in our communities collect food and material and send them to the East of Ukraine to the most destroyed cities, where there is a lack of food and other necessities.
So far we have organized ourselves in this way.
We found everything we needed. The number of people fleeing the war has also decreased in the meantime. So many were able to find a place to sleep.
I would like to say that everything is fine now. There are problems where there is war, destruction of life and cities.
If there are changes in the situation I will let you know. THANK YOU for everything you do at this time.
In Faith, don Ivan M. SDB
Here is a message from the Ukraine Provincial of the Salesians, Fr Mykhaylo Chaban, that was sent on the 25th February 2022:
Dear brethren, I would like to give you some information about the situation in Ukraine which is very tragic. Unfortunately, Russia started the war with Ukraine, attacked our people, wants to take away freedom and democracy from us, tries to make our country under its dependence again. Our people oppose, our army even if not so well set up tries to fight with enemy. There are many victims among the soldiers but also among civilians. The whole world is waiting for immediate decisions to stop the aggressor. All over Ukraine there is danger of bombing. Today our capital in Kiev is suffering a lot, also the areas bordering Russia. People are fleeing from their homes. We as Salesians are in the different big cities: Kiev, Lviv, Zytomer, Dnipro. We are with the people until the last moment. We try to be the ones who give hope to disappointed people. We are creating spaces for refugees in our Salesian structures, we are preparing places for shelters in case of bombings. Today we are already expecting the first refugees who are being brought by our brother Fr Oleg, who has gone to the areas near the Russian border, where there is fighting. He went there risking his life. Our children’s home in Lviv, where we have 70 children under our charge, will host other children from orphanages in eastern Ukraine and from families in difficulty. We are preparing the spaces. We must also guarantee all support.
War close to Salesian works in Korostyshiv and Zhytomyr
Due to the Russian army’s attempt to take over Kiev and the related aggravation of hostilities around the Ukrainian capital, our communities and works in Korostyshiv and Zhytomyr and Salesians and people staying there are in the immediate vicinity of the fighting.
Let us remember them during these hours in our prayers and fasting, asking God to put an end to the madness of war as soon as possible.
Fr Marcin Kaznowski SDB, Provincial of the PLS Province
Our Salesian confreres are among those whose lives are at risk. Krakow Province (PLS) has five branches in Ukraine: in Odessa (3 brethren), Korostyshiv (3 brethren), Zhytomyr (2 brethren), Peremyshlany (2 brethren) and Bibrka (4 brethren).
The confreres are aware of the dangers there may be, but they are serene and confident in God’s providence. They all informed me that they are ready to remain there to accompany their faithful and the young people entrusted to them in this difficult time.
As a province, we remain in regular contact with them and offer prayer, logistical and material support.
In connection with the escalation of hostilities in Ukraine, I ask the whole Salesian Family to pray for peace in this country and for the grace of repentance for those who are making themselves masters of the life and death of others.
We remember in a special way the Salesian Family in Ukraine of both rites (Roman and Greek-Catholic), which in these days is experiencing the misfortune of war.
May Mary Help of Christians, whom Don Bosco chose as the Heavenly Mother of our Congregation, protect them.
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