Kyiv (Ukraine). On 24 February 2023, one year after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing conflict, there were numerous initiatives and demonstrations throughout Europe to implore the gift of peace. The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of the Communities of the Mother of God Preprovince (EEG) present in Odessa, Kyiv, Lviv, lived this day with special intensity, supported by the prayers of the whole Institute.
The sisters present in Kyiv tell how they spent these moments, in solidarity with the people and families most affected and in prayer with the Church and the population. In the previous days, together with the volunteers they collected food and other goods, which arrived thanks to the generosity of associations, humanitarian organizations, and benefactors. They prepared parcels to reach the neediest families, with many children and the elderly, single people and families of soldiers killed in the conflict.
On 24 February, the day of prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine, in the National Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Berdychiv they participated in the prayer vigil organized by the Episcopate of the Ukrainian Latin Catholic Church, which was attended by 14 bishops and archbishops, including the Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr. Visvaldas Kulbokas. The vigil began with Eucharistic Adoration and the prayer of all the Mysteries of the Rosary, with the meditations of four different Bishops, and concluded with the entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of all the people of Ukraine.
The Holy Mass was presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio, who in his homily underlined the value of prayer and faith, to be united against evil and together ask for peace and protection. Numerous faithful, religious and volunteers have come to the Shrine to ask for the gift of peace, despite the risk of gathering in a public place on a day particularly at risk of attacks; despite everything, the Church is alive, praying and active. The Bishops asked the faithful to fast on bread and water every Wednesday and Friday of Lent and the FMA Community of Kyiv accepted the request as a Lenten renunciation. The vigil concluded with the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
On 28 February, the FMA Community, with the volunteers and Sr. Małgorzata Pietruszczak, Superior of the EEG Preprovince who had come for the Visit, went to the Bucha region to distribute aid to the people who suffered so much during the siege by the Russian army.
The van was loaded with food parcels to be distributed to 50 families and other goods received from various benefactors. Once there, the group met with the mayor of the municipality, who told the story of the suffering of his people and handed over the addresses of the people who suffered the most damage. By going from house to house, the sisters and volunteers touched the very heart of the suffering of the people.
Those who have had their homes completely destroyed live in modular dwellings, and pile up the rubble of the surroundings. The Sisters say, “What is striking are the tidy, clean, orderly courtyards, waiting for spring”.
There are widows or mothers in mourning after the death of children, husbands or brothers. “Dozens of families we met thanked us, some even smiled, but each of these families lost a husband, a son, a father or was left homeless, or both”, observe the FMA. That smile amazes, especially when the request is not to take care of them, but of an elderly and house-bound neighbor who needs them more.
In the eyes of many there are tears of pain and in the heart gratitude for the help received. The Sisters and volunteers return to Kyiv in a silence broken only by prayer, preserving the pain of the people and the hope that the much-desired peace will return. Life goes on, because Christ conquers pain, sin, and death.
The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians continue their presence among the people bringing a little light in the dark – a smile, a kind word, closeness – and concrete support, counting on everyone’s generosity and solidarity. It is possible to send contributions and offerings, in the manner indicated on the Website of the FMA Institute, designating the reason as Ukraine Emergency.