The situation in Ukraine is still very difficult, therefore, apart from weapons, medical supplies and food, spiritual help is also needed. Bishop Pavlo Honczaruk from the Kharkov-Zaporozhian diocese paraphrased the famous quote, pointing out that, "there are no atheists in war, there are no doubters in the trenches." Fr. Anatol Kłak, MIC, the parish priest of the Holy Family parish in Kharkov, added in an interview: "Everyone prays in war: Christians, Jews and Muslims." We have confirmation of this great spiritual need from volunteers from Ukraine, who have been distributing devotional items to soldiers in hospitals, to their families and to those who are going to the front throughout the year. Although less than two percent of Ukrainians are Catholics, soldiers willingly take rosaries, pictures and medals and learn to pray.
At the request of the volunteers for Ukraine, we organized a collection among the retreatants of our Sacred Heart Spirituality Center for this purpose: to gather spiritual items, mainly rosaries, medallions and small pictures (that can fit in pockets). We also put chocolates in the packages. Karolina, our retreatant, who runs the Center's profile on Facebook, met with Marcelina from Ukraine, who organized this initiative. Karolina shared the idea with us at the Center and we sent an e-mail to over a thousand of our retreatants. Some responded and organized collections around them and sent it to us. Other people of good will had a place in their car to take our packages to Ukraine. Then the volunteers shared it with people, to whom they have devoted their time and hearts.
For over a month, both large and small parcels came to our house. There were things that people shared from what they had, as well as things specially purchased to be sent to us. In some of the packages, each picture was laminated. This is easier to put in a pocket and will not wear out too quickly – it is such a simple gesture, but it shows thoughtfulness towards the recipient. This and the time spent preparing the packages were expressions of care and love. Aid to Ukraine regularly leaves Warsaw and we have already added packages twice to go to the Ternopil region. We are now collecting for the next transport and we receive touching messages and photos from Marcelina, with whom we are in constant contact. Here are some of the things Marcelina has recounted:
“When they brought the parcels, the church was closed, a soldier was standing in front of it praying. I asked him to help us carry the boxes inside. He helped, and then he stayed in the church for a long time to pray.”
“I am very moved when God touches people deeply through these rosaries and pictures. A soldier kissed my hands, when I said that it was from Poland - I myself started to cry. They strongly believe in God's work and power and want something to remind them of it.”
"I gave them sweets and they told me that they wanted God, a prayer, a rosary, a picture, something blessed ... One with the wounded hand said that he has got blood on his hands, that there is no forgiveness for him, neither in this life nor in the next, that he can’t take the rosary in his hands, because it is a sacred thing. I said to him, ‘You are not a killer, you are a protector. If you want to talk to a priest or confession, we'll arrange it right away.’ Finally, four more soldiers who were in the room with him also asked for confession. I gave a rosary to another, and he wanted even more to distribute rosaries to the soldiers to whom he would return. I taught them – adult men, how to say the rosary. Such a simple prayer... they were crying...”
It takes so little to bring hope. Someone met and listened to someone. A chain of small gestures, time and care, are such a simple way to inspire hope even in the hell of war. Only Christ, the Prince of Peace, has the power to bring true peace through the Artisans of Hope. Let's not stop praying and spreading hope. And let us not get used to the war and the suffering of people beyond our eastern border.
Renata Ryszkowska rscj