Greetings from Poland!
Here is another update to let you know about the things we do thanks to your abundant support. We pick up the thread of our continuing story in the month of August, and we would like to tell you about a very remarkable event which allowed us to spread the word about our assistance program on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean!
Our director Fr. Marek flew to Detroit at the kind invitation of Fr. Andrew Kowalczyk, our benefactor and pastor of St. Clare of Montefalco Parish who has recruited most of our American volunteers. Fr. Andrew was among the first eighteen people who traveled to Poland in April to help with the border crisis. Now, together with his team at the parish, he organized Fr. Marek’s visit down to the last detail. The schedule included many meetings, some official, other more informal. There were also interviews for Channel 7, Ave Maria Radio (EWTN), Detroit Catholic Magazine. Last but not least, Fr. Marek had the chance to celebrate the Eucharist and preach at several Masses in different parishes. It was a wonderful opportunity to speak about the current situation in Ukraine and Poland, reminding everyone that the war has not ended and that the Ukrainian refugees still need help.
We are infinitely grateful to our Detroit friends who made all of this possible! ☺
Another kind invitation came to Fr. Marek from our great benefactor Andrew Duncan. Together with his wife Bess, they hosted Fr. Marek at their home. Andrew, who had on various occasions intervened successfully in situations of great crisis (through his Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation), now instantly resolved the problem of a delayed flight which had left Fr. Marek stranded in New York: the result was a unique experience of a night at a wonderful New York hotel!
In the meantime, back in Poland, we were busy with our daily duties. In Polana, art therapy specialists from the Polish Mother & Child Institute offered their time to our Ukrainian guests.
Another religious sister who had been of great help to us had to leave Przemyśl. Sister Monika and Fr. Marek began to cooperate at the beginning of the war, when she was in charge of a care center for children with disabilities and she offered many places to refugees there. It was a blessing since the center was near the Przemyśl train station, so it was easier to pick up especially those arriving at very late (or very early) hours and asking for help. Sister Monika belongs to the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Michael the Archangel which originated not far from Przemyśl, and now her superiors gave her a new mission in Warsaw.
We had previously received an invitation from a care center for people over 70 years of age, and two of our residents decided to take that opportunity. We received positive feedback from them and now once again a small group gathered to go there too. We provided transport for them from Przemyśl to the German border and there the representatives of the care center awaited them.
Volunteers keep supporting us with their presence. Recently, we’ve had a few visits from different groups, some of them focused on study and games, some on outdoor fun connected with gardening. We even had a little concert as one of the French volunteers had a beautiful voice and shared her talent with us.
Polish lessons continue, too! We try to encourage all our residents to learn our language to make it easier for them to find a job but also simply to function in different social environments during their stay in our country.
As the flu season is about to open, we began informative meetings for our residents concerning vaccination. We were happy to have two of our volunteer doctors meet with the people to encourage them to consider vaccination. Our Ukrainian interpreter Lily was present, too, to make the communication more efficient.
To all of us here in Poland, September 1st is a very significant date. Firstly, and very sadly, it marks the German aggression on Poland in 1939: the beginning of World War 2. Secondly, on an entirely different note, it signals the opening of the schoolyear throughout the country. In our province (Przemyśl & Rzeszów area) over 4,000 Ukrainian children and teens started school together with their Polish peers. On this occasion, we received a gift from the local Solidarność (Solidarity Trade Union which made history in the 1980s) in the shape of 40 colorful backpacks filled with school supplies, as well as sweatsuits and sports shoes. You can see for yourself how this simple gift made the challenge of starting school far sweeter and actually attractive!
We saved the best for last: let us now present our latest challenge! We have come across a truly great offer which we accepted and we are now in the process of establishing a new large reception center. The location is Zatwarnica, another picturesque village in the beautiful setting of the Bieszczady mountains. The maintenance of the building, which used to function as a tourist hotel, will be entirely our responsibility and will require perhaps around $40,000 per month, but it can house over a hundred people. The place was ready to receive guests immediately, so we began to welcome new residents right away. By now we have over 60 refugees in this new location.
Fr. Marek went about the task of integrating our quickly growing community there. At a general meeting, he introduced our new volunteer physician Dr. Wayne Altman with his assistant Natalie, as well as Magdalena, a volunteer psychologist and therapist. There was time for giving information but also for singing songs and laughing together.