As Russia bring war to Ukraine, the priests serving in the attacked cities of Ukraine offer further reports about what they’re seeing on the ground in their ministry.
Many are asking: what is the situation like in various regions of the country? What’s next for the Church’s pastoral efforts undertaken there? These priests help us to better understand.
“We are staying here, we cannot abandon these areas, the house, or our disabled children. They have only us. We will see how the situation will develop,” the Orionists from Lviv write in a message published on the congregation’s website.
“The attack continues throughout the country, anti-aircraft sirens have been heard since morning. We haven’t heard explosions yet, but I think there is a danger that the airport could be bombed because it is happening in different cities in Ukraine,” Fr. Egidio Montanari reports. His community was joined by two Orionist fathers and a seminarian from Kiev who, with only half a tank of fuel, had to be picked up “halfway” by their Lviv confreres.
2CHARKÓW – “WE WILL REMAIN AMONG MOTHERS AND THE POOR!”
The Orionist sisters also decided to remain in Ukraine with their charges. “This morning the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity managed to establish contact with the sisters in Kharkiv, one of the cities most affected by the Russian attack, and in nearby Korotycza,” the congregation’s message reads.
The sisters belonging to the Polish province were asked if they would prefer to return to Poland but they all chose to stay close to the mothers, the children and the poor they care for.
“Sister Kamila from Kharkiv reported that during the night they were awakened by the sounds of shooting. The situation is very precarious. The cardinal asked the Orionist sisters from both communities to gather in Korotycza because it is safer there. The sisters there have basements which they can use as a shelter in case of danger. The sisters belonging to the Polish province were asked if they would prefer to return to Poland but they all chose to stay close to the mothers, the children and the poor they care for,” the Orionists added.
3MARIUPOL – “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?”
“Shots were heard in the morning, this causes panic. But the Ukrainian authorities have asked the people not to panic. It is very difficult. In the city, however, panic is evident. There are huge lines at gas stations and railroad stations. The question is: where do we go? You cannot leave the city easily, martial law is in effect. We are all concerned,” Fr. Paul Tomaszewski, a Pauline priest, told Vatican Radio.
“In addition to the war, there is also an information battle, a propaganda battle. It was said that tanks are positioned in our city, in Donetsk they said that the flag of the separatist republic is already flying over the city. But for now it is normal, peaceful, the city functions. People know that every block of flats has some kind of shelter, mostly in basements, it’s hard to find a real shelter. I invite people to the church, whoever can, come, we will pray,” added the monk.
4KOLOMYJA – CROWDS AT MASS
“We were woken up this morning by airplanes that were flying over the city,” Fr. Michal Machnio, pastor of the parish of St. Ignatius Loyola in Kolomyia in the Lviv archdiocese, reported in an interview with Radio Plus. The pastor, who is a priest of the Diocese of Radom, relayed that an airport 60 kilometers (almost 40 miles) from the city was bombed. The military airport in Kolomyia is also on fire.
“It is a difficult situation for all of us. We pray every day. We encourage everyone to pray for peace. We sing supplications every day after mass. The municipal authorities ask you to remain calm. If there is no need, you should stay at home. Also, the sisters have closed the kindergarten they run,” the priest added.
I am not leaving, I am staying where I am. This is what I have decided. I will stay until the end, regardless of the circumstances.
“There were an unusually large number of people at the morning Mass today. You can feel the tension, but everyone is trying to stay calm. People are buying more things at the store because they don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I ask for prayers that Ukraine will be free from aggression,” says Fr. Machnio. The priest declared that he will not leave his parish. “I am not leaving, I am staying where I am. This is what I have decided. I will stay until the end, regardless of the circumstances,” he stressed.
5KIEV – “SECURE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT”
“In the morning I was awakened by an explosion, probably from the direction of Boryspol – some 30 km (about 18 miles) from us. We decided with our confreres to prepare for evacuation. We want to secure the most valuable equipment from the television studio and take it in the direction of Lviv; we also need to secure the Blessed Sacrament. I have Polish documents and some necessities with me in case we have to hide in shelters,” Fr. Błażej Gawliczek, OMI, who works for the Catholic television station EWTN in Kiev reports in an interview with the Sunday Guest.
“You can’t see troops on the streets, but there is a huge commotion. One of my confreres went out to the store to buy food and to refuel his car – there are unimaginable lines at gas stations, foodstuffs are being bought up in stores. At this moment we are receiving news that Russian troops have entered the Chernihiv region, 150 km (90 miles) north of Kiev. I’ll be honest – it’s been a long time since I felt such fear and uncertainty. Earlier I somewhat underestimated this Russian threat, but now I feel great anxiety,” adds the priest.
6Fastiv – “we will welcome 30 people”
“A request for help has come from a lay couple of volunteers who run the ‘Ark’ aid center for children and youth in Pionersky near Mariupol as part of the Christian Rescue Service. This center is located a few kilometers from the border and was shelled on February 19, and now 5 kilometers from Pionersky there are tanks and rocket systems on the separatists’ side. A second group of children and young people from Ark is about to arrive in Fastiv from Mariupol. This means that we will welcome under our roof in Fastiv a total of 30 people aged 3 to 18 years with their caregivers. We are ready to accept another 20 people who will probably appear soon, and in case of a really dramatic situation even double that number,” reports the superior of the Dominicans in Ukraine, Fr. Jaroslaw Krawiec, OP.
“We provide all of them with food in addition to a roof over their heads. Younger children will join the elementary school at the St. Martin Center, and older children will be accepted by schools in the city. In addition, we provide what we can at St. Martin’s House, i.e. psychological support, therapeutic classes, massage, hydrotherapy, various workshops. We don’t know how long the children and youth from Pionersky will stay in Fastiv,” adds the priest.