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Ukrainian priest living in Portugal rescues 86-year-old mother from war in Ukraine

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Jaroslav Moravcik | Shutterstock

Francisco Veneto - published on 05/25/22

Fr. Natanael Harasym said, "It wasn’t easy. My mother didn't want to leave her country, her home."

Fr. Natanael Harasym, from the Greek-Catholic chaplaincy of Lisbon, wanted to bring his mother, Eva Harasym, to safety with him in Portugal. However, first he had to convince her to leave Ukraine so he could pick her up in Poland. Like many others, she initially resisted the idea.

Fr. Harasym was unable to accompany her during the departure from Ukraine, which was probably one reason she held back; she had to cross the border on foot, despite her advanced age. Fr. Natanael reported to Portugal’s Ecclesia news agency:

Fr. Natanael then went to Krakow and took his mother by car to visit their common Mother: they made a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Częstochowa, patroness of Poland.

Now, Eva Harasym and her two adult children are together in Portugal, where the priest has been living since 2001. He comments:

It doesn’t lessen the pain that comes (…) through [what we see on] television, but it’s good to have my mother here, to be next door (…). And my mother is with me and my brother, who is also in Portugal. But what hurts me most is to see the suffering of so many mothers who have lost their children and the children who have lost their mothers.

Fr. Natanael and his mother say that they “feel at home” in the community of Our Lady of Protection of Benfica, in the patriarchate of Lisbon. His mother doesn’t speak Portuguese, but manages to get along:

It’s a language she doesn’t understand—and they don’t understand her. But in this situation there is another language that goes beyond Portuguese, Ukrainian, Russian and even sign language: it is the language of love, the only one in which we will all understand each other.

For the priest, it was a blessing to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with her. The holiday is celebrated in Portugal on the first Sunday of May, but in Ukraine the date is the second Sunday. He took the opportunity to celebrate on both occasions:

It’s like Easter: there is a one-week difference between Westerners and Easterners. So, Mother’s Day is also extended (…). In Ukrainian we have 52 synonyms for the word mother! This shows her importance, because she is the one who gave us life.

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