“Our cities, homes and kindergartens are being occupied and destroyed. But no one will succeed in destroying our aspirations for peace and freedom”, said Fr Vyacheslav Grynevych, Executive Director of Caritas-Spes Ukraine, in a video appeal launched on 26 February, through Caritas Internationalis. Caritas-Spes is one of two Ukrainian member organisations of the Confederation — the other is Caritas Ukraine — present in the country and supported by 35 other Caritas organisations.
In order to support the work of the two Ukrainian Caritas organisations, Caritas Internationalis has launched an emergency appeal, which will allow to offer immediate help to people in different parts of the country and especially in critical areas such as Kramatorsk, Rubizhne, Zaporizhya, Volnovakha, Mariupol, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Odessa and Ivano-Frankivk.
Caritas Ukraine and Caritas-Spes are already helping thousands of internally displaced persons who are now desperately seeking safe shelter, both in western Ukraine and abroad, providing them with essential information, food, drinking water and personal hygiene kits, as well as a safe and secure place to sleep, eat and wash. Caritas staff and volunteers also provide safe transport for displaced families to reach their loved ones.
Vital support is being provided especially to women and children. Caritas-Spes runs 22 small foster homes throughout Ukraine and is providing safe transportation to its centres in western Ukraine for children in their facilities and state centres in the eastern areas. Ukraine has one of the world’s largest numbers of children in institutions. Although nearly 82% of thousands of children living in state institutions have parents, at this time when the state is focused on security issues, they have no one to ensure their protection. Caritas Ukraine is also organising child-friendly spaces where young children can engage in sports and recreational activities as a means of helping them cope with the psychological stress caused by the conflict.
Despite the precarious security situation and difficulties, Caritas continues its humanitarian work in Ukraine. “In this dramatic moment, we courageously continue to help people in need,” says Fr Grynevych, praising the commitment of 67 staff members and 120 volunteers of Caritas-Spes. “With God’s help, we will continue our service, leaving no one behind.”
Tetiana Stawnychy, President of Caritas Ukraine, expressed her admiration for the efforts of her staff and volunteers. “I am truly proud of our team that is working hard to look to the needs of the most vulnerable while managing their own circumstances as well. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our partners and people of goodwill from abroad. Please support Caritas Internationalis’ appeal. The needs of the Ukrainian people are growing daily”. Her staff is present across the nation and in many cities that are currently under attack, including the capital Kyiv where Father Sviatoslav — of Caritas Spes — is coordinating relief efforts for the thousands of residents stuck in their homes with no food, or sheltering in the subway.
Msgr. Gábor Écsy, Director of Caritas Hungary, described the charity’s ongoing work with the Nyíregyházi Diocesan Caritas and the Debrecen-Nyíregyháza Diocesan Caritas. “We provide service at the Barabás-Mezőkaszony border crossing point. We have a Caritas base located next to the temporary warming place. Ukrainian and Ukranian-Hungarian people come here from the border station”. People are welcomed in a warm place where they can relax until acquaintances come for them or until they get to a reception station — from where they are directed to accommodation. “Ukrainian mothers and grandmothers with lots of children come to us, also there are a lot of African and Indian undergraduate students, whose transit we must assist”. he continued.
Msgr Écsy spoke about the importance of playing with the children, so as to lighten their burden. Indeed, in many cases, the little ones might not even understand the reason for their trip. “We also have a priest here, who can help people and staff mentally as well”. On 1 March, Bishop Ábel Szocska, of the Diocese of Nyíregyháza visited the Caritas base, and spoke with those working there. Government spokeswoman Alexandra Szentkirályi, and Anikó Lévai, the wife of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, have also visited the base, along with representatives of the Hungarian Interchurch Aid.
Meanwhile, Msgr Gábor Écsy, who travelled to Ukraine to assess the situation in Transcarpathia, and Caritas employees brought supplies to Munkács and Beregszász.