Warsaw, 4 March 2022
Dear Brothers and friends,
First of all, I would like to thank you for your great interest in the events behind our eastern border and the war provoked by Russia in Ukraine, where the Claretian missionaries of the Polska Province have been present for more than a year. Many thanks to all those who have already supported us financially (for example, the Province of Santiago) and those who ask us about it or express their closeness and solidarity through prayer and messages of support and unity.
Our Polish brothers serve in two places in Ukraine. They are in Truskavets (where they live) and Boryslav (the town they serve). In Boryslav, the Sisters, Little Handmaids of the Immaculate Conception (a Congregation founded in Poland), work and help in the church and catechesis. The Truskavets community consists of three Claretian Missionaries: Father Wojciech Kobyliński (superior), Father Krzysztof Łabędź (superior) and Brother Marcin Kukuś (bursar). They learned about the outbreak of the war from me because I read the news on the Internet first thing in the morning. This shows the power of modern media: you can learn more and faster from the Internet than from a local person. Besides, Ukraine is a big country (600,000 km2). The Claretian community lives in the west, and the Russian attack started in the east of Ukraine.
Our brothers decided from the beginning that they would stay there with the people whom they wanted to help for as long as possible. As for their security, their situation has been basically the same all the time since the war broke out: peace and quiet (interrupted from time to time by alarms). In addition, there are numerous checkpoints at the entrance to the city. At present, the effects of the war in Truskavets are that many people (women and children) are fleeing to Poland, as the Polish border is only about 60 km away. Our brothers are helping to transport many people, and every day there are more and more refugees fleeing from the war-torn eastern part of Ukraine. Some are coming just for a while – considering Truskavets as a stopover on their way to Poland – while others hope that this is where they will wait for the tragedy to end. The situation is really difficult because the Russians not only attack and shell military targets but also houses and blocks of apartments, hospitals, schools and kindergartens; as if it were a diversion, they kill innocent civilians, including women and children.
This situation has led our brothers in Truskavets, in addition to their normal parish work, to serve as drivers, transporting mothers with children to the Polish border; they organize the provision of food, clothing and medicine; sometimes they give a sum of money to those who have fled empty-handed from the war-torn regions. The needs are growing, but the aid is getting better and better organized, both thanks to the authorities of the city of Truskavets and to the help coming from Poland and other countries.
The aid will be directed into two areas: in Truskavets (through our confreres and nuns); and in Poland (since the beginning of the war, more than 600,000 people have emigrated to Poland). Help is organized in our parishes and through our close collaborators and friends. Our Claretian communities in Poland also help refugees from Ukraine by giving them space to live in our houses (this is the case in Wrocław and Paczyna; the communities in Warsaw and Krzydlina Mała are ready) and help by buying basic food and hygiene products.
We are aware that our capacity is limited, so we are pleased that so many of you are asking how you can help. This makes us very happy and we already thank you sincerely for all your offers of help. We are aware that the current situation will worsen and probably continue for a long time, so we want to help in a structured and prudent way (not giving all resources all of a sudden). So, if you are willing and able to help, please do so, with some guidelines coming from us:
- We cannot guarantee a detailed accounting of the funds received (the war situation makes this difficult). If this is necessary for rendering help, we are sorry, but we will have to give it up because in Ukraine our brothers do not have the time and strength to deal with the documentation in a detailed and systematic way. Trust should be enough, although we will of course try to do our best.
- Many of you ask for photographs. It is very tough for us to force our brothers to take pictures in situations of pain, suffering, deprivation and misery. Some people, reporters, are professionally engaged in taking such photos; you can easily find them on the Internet. Secondly, it is dangerous to take pictures here because everyone is hypersensitive to espionage, and several Russian spies have already been caught. Of course, if we receive any photos to make them public, we will be happy to share them with you.
- We also cannot split the funds and, for example, make separate photos of items purchased with money from Poland and separate ones with money from Spain or Rome… Please excuse us for that as well.
- We may find it challenging to meet the deadlines set by various organizations, although we will try.
- As I have already mentioned, we help and want to help in two ways: to refugees in Poland (in the future, there may be several million of them) and in Ukraine. If you want your money to go only to those in need in Ukraine, please indicate it with an appropriate note.
- We ask our brothers in Ukraine to send us regular (once a week) messages which we will forward to you. One of them, Fr. Wojciech Kobyliński CMF, already writes messages on Facebook almost every day and attaches photos, which can also be used: facebook.com/wojciech.kobylinski.35
- Funds can be transferred to our Province’s bank account (Euro account):
Misjonarze Klaretyni Kuria Prowincjalna
Poborzanska 27, 03-368 Warszawa
IBAN: PL87 1020 1013 0000 0902 0020 9643
- All data and other necessary information can be obtained by writing directly to me at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, I thank you again for your interest, prayers, and sense of genuine fraternity. This is very important for us, especially for our brothers working in Ukraine. I also ask for prayers for our brothers (nine Claretian missionaries) working in Russia and Siberia, and this situation is not easy for them either.
I greet you in the name of the Lord.
Fr. Piotr Bęza, CMF
Provincial Superior of Polska