Greetings from Poland!
First and foremost, Happy Independence Day! We pray for peace and for freedom in every country. Thank you, America, for upholding the values which are dear to us all!
We are back with some news from our corner of Poland where we continue to develop our assistance project founded on your great kindness and generosity.
Early this morning, hundreds of people participating in the walking pilgrimage to the most important Polish shrine, Częstochowa, left Przemyśl after the Mass at the Cathedral, right next to our Charity Center. The pilgrimage takes place every year (since 1978); the pilgrims walk about 250 miles in the space of 12 days, sometimes in scorching heat, sometimes in pouring rain. They sleep in the villages through which they pass, put up for the night by the inhabitants. There are some who joke that this pilgrimage is in fact meant to commemorate the American Declaration of Independence, as it sets out every year exactly on the morning of July 4, while all other Polish pilgrimages of this kind (and there are many!) start their journey in August. Here is a glimpse of the head of the Przemyśl pilgrimage as it was leaving town last year, with our Metropolitan Archbishop Adam Szal. He leads it every year, walking with the pilgrims all the way to the Częstochowa shrine.
But now we want to go back to June 26, a very exceptional Sunday. The 10th World Meeting of Families was celebrated in local Churches this year, with some representatives gathering in Rome. The place chosen for the event in our archdiocese was the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at Jodłówka.
The Eucharist was celebrated outside. Its main celebrants were our Metropolitan Archbishop and his two auxiliary bishops, accompanied by many priests, among them our director Fr. Marek Machała. We were all there; we invited and brought with us our Ukrainian guests and volunteers, and we were almost 170 people altogether. There were also many families from different places in our archdiocese.
Parts of the Prayer of the Faithful were read by Joanna, our Project Manager, and Natalia, House Manager at our Charity Center in Przemyśl. The entire Mass was streamed live courtesy of Fara TV, our archdiocesan media company.
And now comes the surprise: our guests of honor at this event were two very special friends and benefactors from the United States: Mr. Andrew Duncan and Mrs. Elizabeth Weatherman of the Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation! Despite their busy schedule, they found time to spend the whole Sunday with us and visit some of our reception centers. We are so very grateful to you, Andrew and Bess!
Now that we’ve told you about the most important event of the week, another step back in time to the day before, and a peek behind the scenes at… the preparations! It was “all hands on deck” – and a great occasion to use the set of beautiful kitchen aprons sewn by some of our Ukrainian ladies back in April!
While some worked in the kitchen, there were other preparations going on in our Charity Center. We were going to celebrate the first baptism in our center! The little one, 10 months old, was named Kirilo. Natalia, our Charity Center Manager, took on the responsibility of becoming his godmother, and our French volunteer Florian – his godfather. Fr. Marek administered the Sacrament of Baptism and all those present rejoiced over the new Christian, together with Kirilo’s mother and father, and his 10-year-old brother David.
There were also more usual occupations, such as a little arts & crafts class in Polana.
But our daily life certainly abounds in special occasions: recently, Polana was saying goodbye to its physician Dr. Liz May. She stayed with us and worked with great dedication for many weeks, accompanied by her husband John (who was part of our drivers’ team) and later joined by an interpreter, Irina. At the same time, we welcomed our new doctors who came to help us till the end of June.
Another new volunteer joined us to offer lessons of Polish. Janina, a retired teacher, brought some interesting materials and set up a classroom in Polana. Learning Polish, while obviously beneficial to our guests, especially those who want to stay in our country, is also an occasion to have some fun together.
The little ones, who wouldn’t exactly fancy classroom study, have their fun corners here and there, with plenty of attractions to keep them busy. Some kids bring their educative fun outdoors, practicing virtual travel with their fingers on the map and visiting countries far and near.
Those who wished for something more exciting, could try a safe motorcycle ride with an expert in Tarnawa Niżna:
Much time was spent writing letters. And no ordinary letters, either! Some children from Canada wrote to their Ukrainian peers, and now answers were being diligently prepared.
The owner and manager of our reception center in Tarnawa Niżna also volunteers as a guide in the area: two days ago, he took a group of our guests for a walk to the border. There is no crossing there, only beautiful woods and meadows. Other than natural sights, they could take a look at the recently renovated Ukrainian church in the village called Sokoliki, just over the border; the Polish side of the village is not populated.
Back in Polana, a long-expected guest arrived on the premises. Our director Fr. Marek came for a longer visit, wishing to spend some more time with our guests and share their daily life. This, of course, was a great occasion for another celebration: a family barbecue. The next evening, the weather being very inviting, another open-air meal was prepared as everyone gathered round a camp fire.
As for the news regarding resettlement, we had some more happy messages from families who had chosen to move to France. At the same time, we said goodbye to one special mom with her daughter who went to Germany with the help of an aid organization from that country.
Our mission is to offer help where it is most needed. Our everyday encounters with the Ukrainian people are very similar and yet very different. Similar, because we try to reach out especially to those who have no one else to assist them; different, because every one of them comes to us with a unique personal story. This little lady in a white blouse, Stephanie, has come into our world today. She, too, has her story, and we could welcome her thanks to your generous support.