our claretian mission in ukraine

jesus taught us in the beatitudes, “blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons and daughters of God.” we have all been praying for the victims of the war violence in ukraine– it is one way to make peace when we are distant from the immediate violence.

there are claretian missionaries in ukraine who have stayed to serve the refugees and other victims. this recent update letter from the superior in poland is a perspective that the news media cannot share. here is the letter in its entirety:

Dear Brothers and friends:
First of all, I would like to thank you all for your great interest in the events taking place behind our eastern border and connected with the war provoked by Russia in Ukraine, where the Claretian Missionaries of the Province of Polska have been present for more than a year. Many thanks to all those who have already supported us financially (e.g. the Province of Santiago), as well as to those who ask us about this or express their closeness and solidarity through prayer and messages of support and unity.

Our Polish confreres serve in two places in Ukraine. They are Truskavets (where they live) and Boryslav (the village where they come). In Boryslav, the Sisters, Little Handmaids of the Immaculate Conception (a Congregation founded in Poland) work and help in the church and in catechesis. The community of Truskawiec consists of three Claretian missionaries: Father Wojciech Kobyliński (superior), Father Krzysztof Łabędź (superior) and Brother Marcin Kukuś (bursar). They found out about the outbreak of the war from me because I read the news on the Internet first thing in the morning. This shows the power of modern media: you can learn more and faster from the Internet than from a local person. Besides, Ukraine is a big country (600,000 km2). The Claretian community lives in the West, and the Russian attack started in the East of Ukraine.

Our confreres decided from the beginning that they would stay there with the people they wanted to help for as long as possible. As far as their security is concerned, their situation has been basically the same all the time since the war broke out: peace and quiet (interrupted from time to time by alarms). In addition, there are numerous checkpoints at the entrance to the city. At present, the effects of the war in Truskavets are that many people (women and children) are fleeing to Poland, as the Polish border is only about 60 km away.

Our confreres are helping to transport many people, and every day there are more and more refugees fleeing the war-torn eastern part of Ukraine. Some are coming only for a while – considering Truskavets as a stop on their way to Poland- while others hope that this is where they will wait for the tragedy to end. The situation is really difficult because the Russians attack and bomb military targets, but also houses and blocks of flats, hospitals, schools and kindergartens; as if it were a diversion, they kill innocent civilians, including women and children.

This situation has led our confreres in Truskavets, in addition to their normal parish work, to serve as drivers, transporting mothers with children to the Polish border; they organize food, clothing and medicine; sometimes they give a sum of money to those who have fled empty-handed from war-torn regions. The needs are growing, but the aid is getting better and better organized, both thanks to the Truskavets city authorities and aid from Poland and other countries.

As for the aid, it comes from two directions: in Truskavets (through our confreres and nuns); and in Poland (since the beginning of the war, more than 600,000 people have emigrated to Poland). Help is organized in our parishes and through our close collaborators and friends. Our Claretian communities in Poland also help refugees from Ukraine by giving them living space in our houses (this is the case in Wrocław and Paczyna; the communities in Warsaw and Krzydlina Mała are ready) and help by buying basic food and hygiene products.

We are aware that our capacity is limited, so we are pleased that many of you are asking how you can help. This makes us very happy and we already thank you sincerely for all your offers of help. We are aware that the current situation will worsen and probably continue for a long time, so we want to help in a structured and prudent way (not giving all resources at once). So, if you are willing and able to help, please do so, with some indications from our side:

  1. We cannot guarantee a detailed accounting of the funds received (the war situation makes this difficult). If this is necessary in order to provide help, we are sorry, but we will have to give it up, because in Ukraine our confreres do not have the time and strength to deal with the documentation in a detailed and systematic way. Trust must be sufficient, although we will of course try to do our best.
  2. Many of you ask for photographs. It is very difficult for us to force our confreres to take pictures in situations of pain, suffering, deprivation and misery. There are some people, reporters, who are professionally engaged in taking such photos; you can easily find them on the Internet. Secondly, it is dangerous to take pictures here because everybody is hypersensitive to espionage and several Russian spies have already been caught. Of course, if we receive any photos to make them public, we will be happy to share them with you.
  3. We also cannot split the funds and, for example, make separate photos of items bought with money from Poland and separate ones with money from Spain or Rome… Please excuse us for that as well.
  4. It may be difficult for us to meet the deadlines set by various organizations, although we will of course try our best.
  5. As I have already mentioned, we help and want to help in two directions: refugees in Poland (in the future, there may be several million of them) and in Ukraine. If you want your money to go only to those in need in Ukraine, please indicate this with an appropriate note.
  6. We ask our confreres in Ukraine to send us regularly (once a week) messages which we will
    forward to you. One of them, Fr. Wojciech Kobyliński CMF, already writes messages on Facebook almost every day and attaches photos, which can be used: http://www.facebook.com/wojciech.kobylinski.35
  7. Funds can be transferred to the bank account of our Province (Euro account):
    Misjonarze Klaretyni Kuria Prowincjalna
    ul. Poborzanska 27, 03-368 Warszawa
    IBAN: PL87 1020 1013 0000 0902 0020 9643
  8. All data and other necessary information can be obtained by writing to me directly at the
    following e-mail address: prowincjal@klaretyni.pl
    Finally, I thank you once again for your interest, your prayers and your sense of genuine brotherhood.
    This is very important for us, especially for the confreres working in Ukraine. I also ask for prayers for our confreres (nine Claretian missionaries) working in Russia and Siberia. This situation is not easy for them either.

I greet you in the name of the Lord.
Fr. Piotr Bęza, CMF
Provincial Superior of Polska Warsaw, 4 March 2022

p.s. for those of you interested in donating– through our usa-canada claretian province– to our work with the ukrainian refugees, i will post the info later both in facebook and in future blog.

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