Fr Lukasz Andrzejewski, the Passionist Provincial in Poland speaks about a project for destitute older people in the Ukraine in this letter and video....
Today we started Lent. For our brothers in Ukraine, this year it is a time of exceptional closeness to the suffering Jesus. In the morning of February 24th, Russian troops entered Ukraine without any reason, starting the conquest of a free and independent country. Many of you have sent us expressions of solidarity and assurances about prayer, which is now extremely important. You also asked what was happening with the Passionists in Smotrych in Podolia...
Currently, in Podolia, where Passionists live, it is quite peaceful. Military columns (Ukrainian army) pass through the town, and bomb alarms are announced several times a day - also at night. As there is no alarm system in Smotrych, the superior of the monastery receives the message about the necessity to go to the cellars, and the church bell is used to warn the citizens.
Our monastery is constantly visited by people from areas affected by air raids and bombing in larger cities. Some stay with us, others stay overnight in the monastery and in the morning set off on their way to relatives or to the border to seek refuge in Poland or other countries. There is a curfew in Ukraine from 22.00-7.00. Our brothers have welcomed many women and children whose husbands and fathers went to the army. Currently, all men aged 18-60 are obliged to be at the disposal of the army, including our 3 brothers from Ukraine. Some are going because they have been summoned, others are volunteers. The stories about young men who bring families to the convent, go to confession, receive Communion, ask for a blessing and go to the front are heart touching. Currently, our monastery gives permanent shelter to 50 people. However, the situation is dynamic and changes every evening.
Brothers have provisions (food) for the next two weeks. People help each other as much as they can and share what they have. Since they have little, there is a fear that in two or three weeks' time the supplies will run out. In Poland, we are already collecting goods and money, but it is very difficult to deliver it to Ukraine. At the moment, we send small amounts via Ukrainian banks. However, the problem is the lack of products, and the most acute is the lack of gasoline. Even on Monday, it was possible to refuel at some stations with 20 litres of fuel per car, but often you had to stand in a long queue. Nevertheless, on Monday evening we planned to go to Smotrych to take some food and medicines to the House of Mercy. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian embassy asked us not to do this. The brothers also informed us about the checkpoints at the entrances to the cities and on the bridges. As a result traffic jam is often formed there and you have to wait up to several hours to drive through the city. We are in contact with Caritas Polska and Caritas Spes (Ukraine), the Ukrainian embassy in Warsaw and the Polish consulate in Vinnica in Podolia. We are looking for a way to support our brothers, we write e-mails, we make calls, we sign up for waiting lists for a place in humanitarian convoys ... We follow the situation on an ongoing basis. Yesterday there was a light of hope. We were offered to deliver something to Smotrych by the Ukrainian army from Lviv. Trains from Poland reach Lviv - the city is close to the border and has a railway connection with two cities in our country. Most of the transports from Poland arrive there and are distributed further by the military. It turned out, however, that only 1/5 of the products we donated would have a chance to go to Smotrych, the rest would be used by the Ukrainian army. Lviv is quite far from our place - under normal conditions, it takes 5 hours, and now even two days. However, we do not give up. Next week, if nothing changes, we will try to drive our car to Ukraine again - we have a new idea.
Passionists in Smotrych feel more and more anxiety and uncertainty about what the future brings. They are full of hope and try to bring it to people. However, they are overwhelmed by news from devastated cities. It affects Father Jura the most, whose sister lives close to the border with Russia - in a place where residential estates are under attack and many civilians were killed. That is why they perceive positively every expression of support and kindness that we convey to them in everyday conversations.
There are currently 31 people in the House of Mercy, including 10 requiring constant medical assistance. Refugees from all over the world also stay here, but usually only for the night. Our friends from Kiev did not arrive and we do not know what is happening with them, we have no contact with them for two days. There are, however, five sisters of Charity - our community has also been joined by the sisters from Mariupol, a city in the south, who had to flee from the Russian aggression. Sisters also look after the sick and lonely people in the area. Two days before the war, we delivered a whole supply car to them, so there should be no shortage of food for the next three weeks. The problem is in lack of medicines, and this motivates us to try to find a way to reach them with help.
The situation at the front is very serious. With each success of the Ukrainian army, the actions of the Russians against the civilian population intensify. Currently, according to estimates, more than 2,000 civilians have already died. There are many injured. Over 600,000 refugees came to Poland. We also try to organize help for them. In our monasteries we have prepared places for refugees, we collect gifts for help (these people often have literally nothing with them!), Fathers who know Ukrainian help with formalities and contact. Generally, we do our best to help whoever we can.
I can write from myself personally that I can no longer watch reports from Ukraine. For the last five years I have watched Ukraine develop. Today, the entire effort of many years of work is falling into ruin. It is very difficult for me to look at places I know so well, today bombed out. The greatest tragedy, however, is the suffering of people, including many of my friends.
Again, I ask all brothers to pray for the cessation of this madness. Remember also the fallen in your prayers. Let them find God's mercy through the Passion of Christ.
I would like to thank all the Passionists communities and individual religious who send their expressions of support, prayer and offered financial support to our brothers in Ukraine. I am not always able to write back and thank you right away due to the lack of time and fatigue, but all Passionists in Poland and Ukraine remember you in our prayers.
Two weeks before the war began, Polish television made a program about the Passionist Mercy House, you can watch it (unfortunately only in Polish) here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjrkXM2st8s&t=2s
I wish us all God's peace,
p. Lukasz Andrzejewski CP