Rome (Italy). The Mother General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Mother Chiara Cazzuola, and the General Councilors, follow with apprehension and affection the evolution of the situation in Ukraine, receiving news from the FMA of the Communities of Lviv, Kiev, and Odessa.
The last remaining FMA in Kiev reached the Lviv Community to give help, despite the risk of bombing. “This morning there was an alarm and around 6 we heard two explosions, then everything calmed down. We are in God’s hands,” are the words of a Sister from Lviv where, on 13 March 2022, a military base was attacked.
There are testimonies of great faith, tenacity, and solidarity with the people. In recent days, an FMA recounts that from the first day of the conflict, when the alarm began to sound, the neighbors knocked on their house to find refuge and pray the rosary together. “From that day when the alarm rings, it is always like this. And when we finish a part of the rosary, usually the alarm stops. I could not say that our building is safe, but the place is, because it is the House of Mary Help of Christians and Jesus in the Eucharist is with us. Sometimes He stays in the chapel; at other times, He ‘runs’ with us into the basement. We take care of Him, but it is He who guards us.”
“Here we experience that the evil of this war ‘has freed’ a lot of good,” she continues. “The world united for Peace, the whole world prays. Everyone is helped. So much solidarity, support, openness, and acceptance without measure! In this period, we experience that only today exists and every day the Lord opens up new possibilities for us to do good. The Salesians of Don Bosco send us the aid collected in Poland by so many good people and by our Sisters. We sort it out and send it east for the soldiers and for the neediest in other parts of Ukraine. Many people help us with openness and dedication.
It is important to open when the Lord knocks; many refugees from the bombed cities to the east arrive here. ‘I just want to live in a place where there is no shooting …’, says a young mother with a three-month-old baby girl. She is already safe and the thankful mother wrote, ‘I wish a safe sky above you’. Two young students who fled Kharkiv also knocked on the door. One of them turned 18. ‘What do you wish?’ ‘I just want peace and to be able to go home …’. Now everyone dreams of a safe home, without bombs. If we get to tomorrow, the Lord will ‘knock’ again.”
At Odessa, the three FMA of the Community remained and one of them works with the Salesians to bring aid to the Ukrainian soldiers. Three university girls remained with the Sisters and one, a nursing student, provides first aid service at the hospital where everything is starting to lack, which is why the material supplies sent in solidarity, such as baby diapers, are precious.
The FMA and the Educating Communities of the neighboring Provinces continue to provide relief and welcome to the Ukrainian population in search of refuge. Visiting Councilor Sr. Lidia Strzelczyk, on behalf of Mother and the Council, went on a visit to the Polish border to encourage the FMA of the two Provinces of Mary Help of Christians (PLA) and Our Lady of Jasna Góra (PLJ), and as a sign of solidarity, also materially, showing the concrete participation of the whole FMA Institute supported by those who at this moment, with great generosity, are also sending financial aid for this Emergency. As soon as she arrived, she took part in a meeting with the FMA for the coordination of aid to refugees and to the Sisters from Ukraine.
There is also great generosity from St. John Bosco Province (SLK) of Slovakia. To the east, on the border with Ukraine, the FMA have two communities. The Sisters teach in schools and those who could take holidays in the state schools, as well as those from other communities, went to help at the borders as a first contact for those who arrive or to accompany refugees to a reception point where they can find tea or a bed to rest, while they wait for the buses to bring them into the lodgings.
Together with other religious, in collaboration with a telephone agency, they have opened a free line for those who need to speak, to be listened to, and to hear words of comfort, understanding, closeness, hope. The FMA collaborate with other organizations and are part of the municipal teams for concrete aid. The communities have begun to welcome and to find spaces for hospitality in their own Houses. Three FMA are volunteers at the Košice railway station and others in Bratislava, to accompany the refugees and make themselves close with indications and answers to concrete needs.
The Provincial, Sr. Monica Skalová, modified the program of the meeting planned for the Animators, inviting them to help at the borders, as a formative experience and a tangible gesture of closeness and support for the people. “The response of the Animators who have made themselves available is moving,” highlights Sr. Monica.
Other stories of hope and peace from the Province of St. Mary D. Mazzarello of Austria and Germany (AUG), from which the Provincial, Sr. Petra Egeling, communicates the initiatives. The Province launched appeals for donations through the networks of solidarity Missionsprokur (Germany) and Solidaritätsverein (Austria) and first aid was sent to the PLJ Province to provide for the needs of the Sisters in Lviv and the refugees in their houses. Each community creates initiatives in favor of Ukraine or participates in local actions, as well as identifying spaces to host refugees. A group of people with three minibuses left Magdeburg on their own initiative to Warszawia. They transported relief materials to the PLJ Provincial House and on their return brought 17 Ukrainian people to be housed in five apartments in Magdeburg.
The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians continues to offer the possibility of sending contributions and offerings, the documentation of which will be published, in the manner indicated on the Website of the FMA Institute, designating the Ukrainian Emergency in the reason for payment.