Here is an update on what has been happening in our southeastern corner of Poland recently with the inestimable help of your generous donations.
THE “GOOD PLACE”
A couple of days ago, Fr. Marek with some of his close cooperators traveled to Łódź in central Poland to participate in a meeting of the Board for Pastoral Family Care of the Polish Episcopate. Fr. Marek also took the opportunity to pay a visit to Warsaw where he had promised to meet with the representatives of the Catholic Cultural Center “Good Place.” They welcomed about 100 refugees from Ukraine at the beginning of the war and they are still providing them with housing, food and other necessities. Fr. Marek shared some of our experience which we gained in the course of the development of our assistance program. We’ve organized meetings to invite the refugees from Warsaw to participate in our program. Right after our first meeting, we received very positive feedback as many of them expressed their gratitude for our interest in them and for the opportunities we offered.
Some of these people have already found jobs in Poland, but most are unemployed, wishing to find work. Among them, Fr. Marek met a very smart and diligent accountant, Natalia; she traveled with him to Przemyśl and then had the chance to visit our reception center in Ustrzyki.
Natalia will work as the manager of our Charity Center. It was very important for us to have at least one reception center in Przemyśl, where people from Ukraine continue to arrive in large numbers every day. We were able to use a house which our Archdiocese had renovated, located next to the Seminary, and with your help, we have now almost finished setting it up. The place is nearly ready, with bunk beds, mattresses, furniture in place; we have just bought a fridge and a washing machine. We are still waiting for kitchen appliances and some other minor items. Starting Wednesday, we plan to welcome a large number of people there (up to 48 places, or more in sudden need.)
Thanks to your generous support, we have other new options open as well. We’ve made arrangements with the owner of a tourist hotel “Angels of the Bieszczady Mountains” in Tarnawa Niżna, with the capacity of 40 places. We are in contact with Fr. Marek Rusek, of the Salesians of Don Bosco, who is ready to receive as many as 50 people in his retreat house in Polana. Our plans include also a house in Skorodne which would be a great gain: we could both employ the Ukrainian people there to give them responsibility and promote activity, and at the same time we could save money by running our own house.
Other than that, we have some more prospective new locations which, at a relatively small cost, could be adapted as places of welcome for the refugees.
TRANSPORT AND VOLUNTEERS
We heard about a charity program at one of the Polish banks and we were able to lease a cargo van for a month, free of charge; they also considered a minivan for us in the nearest future. To go along with that, through the generous gift of God’s Providence, our list of drivers extended: two volunteers of the name David offered their services to us, one coming from Ireland, the other from the US but living in Poland; at the same time, two sisters from the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth came to support us in Ustrzyki Górne, and they turned out to be good drivers as well!
We are also expecting new guests from St. Clare of Montefalco Parish in Detroit. Pastor of that parish, Fr. Andrzej Kowalczyk, has already visited us, bringing some volunteers and material help. With gratitude we’ve learned that many other volunteers will be coming from Detroit to join us, among them a physician, an automotive mechanical engineer and a hospital chaplain with the knowledge of Ukrainian.
Speaking about doctors, we are very thankful for the response of many Canadian and Ukrainian-Canadian physicians who take turns to fly to Poland and provide medical care at our reception centers in Ustrzyki Górne. They began to come almost immediately when the war started, and they continue to declare their readiness to volunteer in the coming weeks and months.
In Ustrzyki, there are also those who want to help the children shake off their fear and forget about their traumatic experiences. This is the role of volunteer art therapists. We know how important it is to turn the kids’ attention to positive and joyful things, so we try to organize leisure activities for them. Some of our foreign partners, when they come to pick up the refugees who want to start a new life in their country, are also keen to join in and offer some fun to the little ones.
In Warsaw, Fr. Marek met a teacher of the Ukrainian language and a psychotherapist. He proposed to employ them so that they would work with children and adults who live at the “Good Place.” We continue to look for more specialists: psychologists, managers, construction workers, cooks. Our idea is to create a foundation and through that foundation to set up small production and service companies which could give employment to Ukrainians in Poland and other countries in Europe.
OUR PRESENCE IN THE MEDIA
Fr. Marek has met with the Editor-in-Chief of the main Polish Catholic weekly called “Niedziela” (Sunday.) The talk was fruitful, the editor was impressed by what we’ve done so far and promised to help us spread the word in Poland, both about what we do and about our request to all people of good will to get involved. A text was prepared and it should be published in the next issue of the weekly.
Then Fr. Marek went to Warsaw once again, this time to a church where he was invited to share our story, presenting our activity as a direct realization of Jesus’ New Commandment: “Love one another the way I have loved you.” His testimony was streamed online and the link is available in the section “In The Media” on our website.
Our efforts so far have brought very good results:
- Total number of refugees welcomed: 620
- Total number of people in group transports to other countries: 304
- Total number of people who stayed with us but organized their emigration individually: 107
We are profoundly grateful for your interest and support. The war, unfortunately, does not seem to be coming to an end, and there are still very many people who are lost, who suffer, who call out for help. We want to continue to respond to that call.